The Great Health Care Debate of 2009

The health care debate continues on.  People have very strong feelings about it.  The elderly are particularly up in arms about the current proposed plan because it intends to reduce funding to medicare, which they rely on, and redistribute those funds to younger people, if I am understanding it correctly.  This means they will be denied certain aspects of care.  I hear stories all the time of people in other countries on a public plan being denied expensive drugs that could prolong their lives.  It is sad to see that health care has now become a matter of money, but I do understand that it costs money to research and develop new drugs, new procedures and equipment.  The developers of these resources are worthy of compensation. Health care has always been operated  as a humanitarian process at its base but people still need to be paid for their services.   I do not claim to have full understanding of how the system works, but I can offer some limited and personal observations.

Our government is known for excessive waste and corruption.  We see this so succinctly with the post office (always in the red), social security (it’s broke and contains IOU’s and is not sustainable in its current form), and medicare (which is also unsustainable in its current condition).  I have been hearing that one of the reasons for the high cost of health care is the government’s low payments for Medicare. Those costs have to be made up somewhere. These government programs, although very humane ideas at the time, are currently headed for disaster.  It’s just a matter of time.  In fact, our country is so in debt now, it’s unlikely that we can ever crawl out of it.  Most of us have to live within our means in out personal lives; it is past time for government to do so too.  My family could not afford to run our own lives in this manner. The current spending of the government is unsustainable and puts the future of the country and the people at great risk. The government is like an addict, be it drugs, alcohol, or shopping.  They just are not able to quit; they keep coming back for more resources to fund their addiction.  There is no common sense in play.  The only way addicts and alcoholics are able to break their addiction is when their “enablers”, their resources, all dry up and there is nowhere left for them to go to feed their addiction. Then they are faced with their own reality.  When no one in the world will buy our debt any more, perhaps that will be the time. I believe we are rapidly approaching that point.

It is a proven fact that private companies can and do manage their businesses far better.  That’s because of the profit motive.  Without that, no one cares.  With a profit motive, business is run far leaner with far less waste and corruption.  Granted, there may be exceptions to this rule and there certainly is abuse of the rights of people because of greed and corruption, but in general, profit aims and fair competition keep waste and corruption at bay. Now as to abuse of the rights of people, this is where I believe government can and should play a role.  I believe they are to act as the referee in the game.  What imperils us all is if they also decide to get in the game with all the power to make the rules as well as having access to the flowing abundance of taxpayer dollars, while competing with private companies. I am speaking of the public option, which currently is intended to change the whole way health care is managed in our country and which will put government and private industry unfairly competing against each other.  For the few unable to purchase insurance  (and I didn’t say could purchase but won’t), they may need assistance in the form of vouchers or other method.  I sympathize with their plight.  My husband and I have always been covered by employer plans, but when he left his job to go to a job with far fewer benefits for a small businessman, he easily found an insurance broker and we have always been able to purchase a plan that was reasonable all by ourselves.  In fact I was amazed that we could purchase a plan for about 1/5th of what his company’s plan cost that company. I wanted to tell them about our good deal, so that perhaps they could also purchase it for less.

I have personally not had a lot of exposure to the health care system, but I have had some.  I will relate some of my experiences and observations.  In 1974, I had to have some surgery.  I can’t quite remember all the details, but I must have had some kind of coverage at the time, perhaps on my grandparents insurance because I was in school.  I do not recall ever having to pay anything for that.  Then I began my new job where I had full insurance benefits.  I recall a time where there was a dispute over who was to pay what for some oral surgery I had.  I ended up paying but was reimbursed two years later when the state health insurance department became involved.  Having insurance has always been a part of my life.  I can’t recall being without it, but that was the 70’s and 80’s.  There was a time in the late 70’s that I was without it, but I don’t remember it being a concern.  Of course I was quite young then.

Some observations…In the county I live in, I notice there are lots of fund raising efforts being conducted by the community when someone gets a life threatening, expensive-to-treat disease.  This brings the community together to help each other.  A cousin of mine recently lost her young husband to a debilitating condition.  I understand she had insurance through her work, but her community also came together to raise money to help their family, and she never had to pay a thing.  If the government decides to cover everyone, I wonder if communities, now under new tax burdens, would continue to do this.  I think it would take away their sense of caring for one another and responsibility, as well as any extra money.  Another thing I have seen is the forgiveness by hospitals of large debt.  There have been two instances in my family where the hospital bill was either totally forgiven, or forgiven in part.  I don’t know how often that happens but it happened twice in my family.  They didn’t lose everything they had.  Of course, I believe that that debt is most likely paid for by the rest of us.  In the case of a lady from another country who was denied an expensive drug to prolong her life, the drug company stepped in and furnished it for her since that country’s public plan would not cover it. People helping people.  We are a generous nation.  Incidentally, although this particular public plan would not pay for the drug, they would pay to help her die.

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