There is a huge debate underway in the halls of Congress over the future of the American Health care system.
And despite large majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats are loosing.
Sometimes I despair for my party.
Though it is clear to me that some form of Single Payer is far and away the best answer for this nation, that is an option that is not even being considered.
The battle in Congress is largely over two issues. Including a public option and how to pay the $100 - $160B/year that this program will cost us.
Despite several polls showing very widespread public acceptance for a Public Option and a strong majority who are willing to pay more taxes in order to finance this system, some Democrats (including the the Blue Dogs) are blocking a public option. Listening to the debate I hear Republicans (and some Democrats) mouthing the same old tired attacks on a public option.
They ask if Americans want a bureaucrat standing between them and their doctors. The sad fact is that for most Americans there already is a bureaucrat standing between them and their doctors. The current bureaucrat works for an Insurance Company and that bureaucrats job is to protect the profits of the Insurance Company. I some how do not see that as any better than a bureaucrat who works for the US Government in the same role. In fact, since the Federal bureaucrat isn't focused on protecting any Insurance Company's profits, they might be more responsive to the needs of the patient and the decisions of the doctors.
For years Republicans have stated as if it were a fact that private industry can always do things better than a government entity. Yet now they are publicly worried that many people might leave private insurance for the government run insurance program. Why would they do that if the private insurers could do a better job?? Just look at how well Medicare is managed and what its administrative overhead costs are compared to the inefficiencies and bloated salaries and administrative overhead costs of private insurers. There are some things governments can do well and this looks like it might be one of them.
One of the elements of President Obama's proposal is a structure that studies medical methods and outcomes and costs and looks for ways to maximize positive outcomes while reducing costs. Though no one has proposed imposing the results of these studies on anybody, Republicans have twisted this into a government plan to ration care in some way. Its a lie but Republicans do seem to like their lies.
One thing that is lost in the current rhetoric is that the current system is financially unsustainable. Its not just that Medicare will grow to consume the entire federal budget, its that private citizens and employers will no longer be able to afford to provide quality care. There is tremendous waste and duplication and conflict of interest in the current system. Administrative overhead consumes about 30% of every health care dollar. (as an aside, overhead in Medicare is far far lower at about 5%). We have well over 1000 insurance companies along with hundreds of thousands of providers of medical services. Yet with all that supposed competition duplication and waste and inefficiency and costs continue to rise far faster than inflation. Without at least a public option, it may not be possible to get control of costs and without getting control of costs the question of who pays the bills is almost meaningless.
The current health care system in this country is a national disgrace. We have the best, most advanced, most successful health care in the world, if you can afford it. But we pay way too much for what we get. We pay 20%/person more than the second most expensive country and 50% more than the 3rd most expensive country and yet we have a shorter life expectancy that most industrialized nations, we have higher rates of infant mortality that any other industrialized nation, and we still have 50 million people in this country that do not have any health insurance at all. 62% of all Bankruptcies are partially or completely the result of medical bills and 2/3rds of those medical related bankruptcies involve people WHO HAVE health insurance. No other industrialized nation on earth would tolerate such an outrage.
And Republicans (with some Democrats) don't seem to really want to change anything.
We are facing a crisis.
And it doesn't look like we are going in the right direction.
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