Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The healthcare solution not being debated

For the strength and health of the economy we need a single-payer healthcare system covering all Americans. Call it socialism if you want, but capitalism needs it. The people that have insurance need it, as much as those who aren't insured. The problem is that no one inside the Beltway is talking about it. Too much money at stake.

Looking at the budget

When times are tough, and they are tough on Main Streets all over America, most businesses, households and individuals put together a budget. They look at their allocation of resources, how and where they spend their money and where they can cut costs or save. Our government needs to do the same.

When people stopped spending money because it was getting eaten up by high gas, Rx, and health insurance costs, coupled with Wall Street's issues with greed and the resulting economic downturn, a business owner I know, who has been an employer for over 15 years, cut his health insurance ($600 a month) just to help keep himself paid and not cut payroll. He's in the private market and doesn't have the “options” that Gov. Pawlenty and others representing the health insurance industry say exist. The “smart consumer” doesn't always have a place to turn to in our free enterprise system of healthcare. For one thing, most are covered under employer plans, not chosen by them.

The budget of the United States of America, not just the federal government's budget, is reflected in the Gross Domestic Product. U.S. spending on healthcare is 17 percent of GDP, while other major industrialized countries spend about 10 percent of GDP, and they cover every one their citizens.

These countries save by efficiency. They also save because the emphasis of their single-payer systems is prevention and treatment. In our system the emphasis is profit, and then treatment--if it's covered.

The sick thing is the immense profits aren't being made by doctors providing the care, but the HMOs and insurers who profit through policy limitations and denying people's claims. The sad thing is the people covered by insurance are paying the high costs of the emergency room visits of people often death's door because they did not have insurance and could not get early treatment for their disease. These taxpayers are also picking up part of the tab for the wreckage bankruptcy causes families due to medical catastrophes. So think about it: We are paying 70% more and getting less.

People whose nations have single-payer systems fare better in virtually every measure of health, while we rank with third world countries in such basic measures as infant mortality, 45th, just behind Cuba. These countries don't have the personal bankruptcies we have. The Main Street small business owner doesn't have to decide between hiring another employee or forgoing health insurance.

There are other issues not being addressed or discussed in our government's refusal to even raise the topic of a single-payer system. This is largely because they are bought off with our very own healthcare dollars funneled through K Street.

Even a “Moderate Republican” can understand the current system is adverse to our economic and national security, because we let 50 million Americans fall through the cracks. I ask, are you really worried about a pandemic? If you are, then we need a universal healthcare delivery system.

Keep it Simple

How do we get to a single payer system without too much disruption to the HMOs and insurance industry? We phase it in. Certainly, not through this “public option” being written by lobbyists. It is destined to be a dumping ground for high risk, high cost insureds, and “fail” because its costs will be higher than private industry.

Rather, we do it by extending Medicare, the closest thing we have to a single-payer system, to those 50 years old and older, now. Then in 10 years, drop the age to 35, and then extend it to everyone in 2025. Age eligible persons insured under a group plan could stay on those plans.

Note: Since writing my piece below, Keith Olbermann has done a nice piece on the bi-partisan shakedown.

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