I've been hearing a lot of rants lately about "Obama's Health Care Plan" (perhaps folks should do a little reading on how legislation gets written in the US since Obama hasn't written any of the several plans being discussed) and while the topic is vast and I have no time to delve into it in detail right now, I just had to jot down some thoughts before they went out of my mind.
Why does this matter? Rising health care costs are killing our economy. Ask business folks you know how they feel about the current system and I'll bet you they hate it because the costs are a moving target. Providing health care to employees has been getting more and more expensive every year and a lot of companies can't even afford to do it anymore. If you own your own small business you have to shell out for a personal plan which is astronomical - at least a larger company can get some kind of break from these sharks. As the country ages its only going to get worse. We need to FIX the system (reduce costs) as soon as possible or we will most certainly find it very difficult to ever recover economically as a nation.
Ignorance: Health care in the US is a very complex issue. Do everyone a favor and do some research before yelling at anyone about it. You can start by actually glancing through (if not reading entirely) HR 3200 (the current reform bill). Here's a handy link to the full text on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.3200: I know there are amendments are other proposals being floated, the LOC site is a gold mine for that info. If you won't read the legislation and instead want to base your opinion solely on what some talking head on your news channel of choice tells you it says then you deserve to be duped.
Choice: I hear a lot of rants about a public plan causing me to "lose the ability to choose". What kind of choice do I really have in health care right now? I am lucky enough to have a job which provides health care. Since the company picks up a large portion of the plan fees, I am lucky enough to be able to afford to be in it. But, the company has only one health care plan which I must use or I wouldn't be able to afford health care at all. That isn't much of a choice. The plan my company offers has a set of doctors I must choose from - I can't just go to anyone I want. That also isn't choice. That plan doesn't cover a whole range of things which might be important including eye care and dental. I have no choice other than to pay for those out of pocket when needed. That isn't choice - it's no different from having no insurance at all!
Priorities: If I get sick and can't work I might lose my job and eventually lose my health insurance. If it was a permanent condition, I wouldn't be able to get insurance coverage for that ailment again because it is a "pre-existing condition". With the current US medical system, I am actually in danger of going completely bankrupt and losing everything I've worked for if I get really sick. This is unthinkable in most developed nations with public plans. What possible priority system do we have in this country where it is more important to protect an inefficient, profit driven system than to ensure that our work force can be healed and put back into a productive mode without incurring personal financial ruin? Folks who fall through the cracks in this way will eventually become a drain on the system anyway - using emergency rooms, going onto public assistance, etc.
Public Health: We have a crisis of obesity in this country. More money could be saved in health care if we just forced all the fat people to lose weight than any of the plans being discussed. In fact, I'd like to blame the fat people for this whole thing! If it wasn't for the massive cost of obesity related diseases we wouldn't have a health care financial crisis in the first place! Sure this sounds horrible, but the point is that we need to make living healthier more of a national priority - being out of shape and overweight isn't just a personal problem - it is costing the US big bucks. Oh, and before the hate mail starts rolling in from all the thyroid challenged folks, I'll just end this point with my bosses favorite line about fat people: "Wanna lose weight? Eat less. How many fat people do you think there were in the concentration camps?"
Media coverage: You are not hearing reasoned debate in the media because the media outlets (nearly ALL of them) are owned by the same people who own the big health care companies and pharmaceuticals (different media outlets share boards of directors with the various players - its not all one big conspiracy). Not a surprise that they would be more interested in controversy than producing intelligent comparisons of the different kinds of plans offered around the world. Other countries have working systems we can investigate, wouldn't it be nice to learn about them?
Irony: I actually hear folks ranting against a public option who in the same breath claim they would defend their Medicare to the death - Medicare is public health care, you idiots! Ask people on Medicare how they like the system. I would venture to bet that you will hear good things about our existing government plans.
Cut out the Middle Man: Insurance companies are middle men gambling on your health. They are betting you won't need health care and you are betting you will. Luckily most of the time their actuaries are right and you're wrong, or they wouldn't be so rich. I think we need to cut out the middle men, lowering costs - so more money can go directly to hospitals, doctors, and nurses. Buying direct is not a hard concept for Americans to get their heads around, but for some reason in health care it's different?
Socialism: There are many aspects of our society that could be termed 'socialistic' already. We have a mandated education system. We have organized police and fire services paid for by mandatory taxation. We have highway systems and infrastructure that you must pay for whether you use them or not. With Social Security and Medicare we promised to take better care of our very young and our elderly and not just cast them aside or let them die on the streets. Socialism isn't EVIL, it's actually very CHRISTIAN.