The need for health care change
by Peter Stern
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
With Roosevelt's thinking in mind, President Barack Obama at least had the guts to make a decision to ensure some kind of health care reform. It is long needed.
Private health care insurance is bleeding Americans dry. Approximately 20 percent of Americans are without health insurance.
Some in the Washington Capitol want to develop and implement a totally new health care program to insure all Americans. Some critics say all that is needed to reduce current health care costs is to approve legislation that provides malpractice reform and reduces the burden of the paper work. The message is that developing and implementing such a "safety net" for the health care industry and for doctors/providers would save significantly on the cost of health care, which is naive at best.
During the past several years, various state lawmakers pushed legislation for health care medical malpractice reform that was approved by the legislature and voters. The "theory" was that doing so would save millions for the industry and in turn for patients re: their medical and health care costs. While the new laws did protect and save money for the industry and providers, health care costs and premiums continue to rise dramatically for insured Americans.
In fact, the ever-increasing costs are causing more employers to cut back or completely drop health care plans for their employees. There are a large number of Americans who no longer can afford to keep their health plans, while the number of citizens without health insurance continues to escalate. A major concern is that approximately 40 percent of American children are without health care coverage. Obviously, the approved medical malpractice reform legislation did little to reduce health care costs that translated into affordable plan premiums. In fact, each year health plan premiums continue to increase significantly.
In addition, current health care plans do not cover ALL expenses; consequently, a secondary insurance is needed to cover costs not paid for by the primary plan. Very few Americans can afford to purchase and maintain two health care plans. Even with two plans there still are out of pocket expenses.
Another one of the big concerns and a large contributing factor to high and increasing health care costs and premiums is the cost of providing health care and/or ER services to uninsured Americans and to legal / illegal immigrants who have no coverage. The cost of providing health services to these segments of the population is consistently more than any issues relating to malpractice pay-outs and/or the burden of paper work issues.
In the U.S. there are an estimated 20 million illegal immigrants, who at one time or another will need medical services that they cannot afford and/or do not pay for. The result is that either taxpayers finance those services or the burden for payment is diverted from the health providers onto those who pay for their own health care via increased premiums. Most health care plans increase premiums every 6 or 12 months for various reasons, including that of maintaining or increasing high profits.
As for health care reform in Washington, what is wrong with modifying or tweaking Medicare and extending it to all Americans? Part of the reason may be that the medical and health care industries fear a 30 percent cut in profits. That may be the foremost reason Congress does not work to extend Medicare.
Currently, many doctors will not take Medicare patients. Many do not take NEW Medicare patients, while many doctors do not accept any new patients at all --- whether or not they may have their own private insurance. There are reasons for these actions --- not the least being that Medicare often cuts its payment to providers by 30 percent.
There are many more significant problems within our health care system that require change. Unfortunately, the health care industry is not providing changes that would cover all Americans with affordable premiums; consequently, President Obama is bending arms in Congress to do so. In reality, it is a noble effort even though the Republican Congress and many Americans fear a government management rather than private health care program.
While Medicare may contain some problems and issues, it is a health care system that has worked and still works for most recipients. So, why not modify the program and tweak the problems and issues in order to extend it to all Americans? There is no reason to "reinvent the wheel" to develop a completely new system. Another concern with developing a completely new health care system is that how do we know whether Congress and the health industry could develop a new problem-free successful system? It would be an experimental program for many years to come.
Currently the U.S. has in place a private system that costs more and provides less coverage than health care systems in any other nation. It does NOT work for many Americans and that percentage grows every year. Americans need complete and affordable health care and if private industry continues to refuse to provide it to all citizens, then it forces the government to take considerable action to ensure that every American has quality and affordable health care.