Monday, October 15, 2007

Better Health Care for All

MLK Poster

There is something very wrong with the way we do health care in America. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to you. Unless you are quite wealthy, paying for doctor visits, prescriptions and (worst of all) hospitalizations really hurts.

I have a bare bones (no pun intended) Blue Cross Blue Shield hospitalization plan. With a huge $2500 deductible I pay around $200 a month for just myself, hoping against hope that I will never need to use the policy. In addition, I pay every cent of my visits to the doc, for any lab work I have to have done, for all of my dental and eye care and for my medications. Blue Cross does offer a small discount on prescriptions with my health plan so that does help a little.

Having reached the half century mark, my physician strongly advises that I get a colonoscopy, a test that is one of the most efficacious tools in the high tech arsenal to detect the onset of a very common form of cancer. The only thing stopping me is the $2500 price tag, all of which I will have to pay out of pocket. I'm one of the millions of under-insured Americans. I hesitate to call the doctor when I'm sick, fearing the cost. There have been a couple of instances when I had to decide whether or not to call an ambulance (for chest pains, say) and the primary reason I didn't dial 911 was that I thought I would incur huge, unmanageable expenses that would, in the medium term at the very least, do me more harm than NOT going to the ER.

I am starting to feel ill as I write this.

And what about the 45 million Americans who have NO health coverage? They're even more screwed than I am. The truth is that in the U.S. we spend more on health care than any other industrialized nation ($2.6 trillion in 2006, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) YET we rank 37th among all the countries in the world in terms of health system performance (so says the World Health Organization). Here's a fact that never ceases to amaze me:

The United States is the only "advanced" country (whatever that means) in the world that DOES NOT have universal health care.

How can that possibly be? What prevents us from seeing the most obvious solution to what is unquestioningly recognized as the most significant domestic issue facing us as a nation?


Health care is a human right. Everyone should be able to receive high quality, affordable health care services. The only way we can repair our badly broken system is to take health care OUT of the hands of profit driven health care providers and insurance companies. We will not be re-inventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination if we simply establish a Single Payer National Health policy. A public agency, such as the very efficient one that runs Medicare, could be expanded to create a just, equitable and affordable system for ALL Americans.

There is a bill pending in the House of Representatives right now that creates just such a system. It is called H.R. 676. Very simply, it puts into place a mechanism that would ensure that:

1) Every resident of the U.S. is covered regardless of income, job status, age or health status.

2) Everyone may choose their own doctor without worrying about co-payments, deductibles or premiums.

3) All health care services are fully covered, including hospital stays, doctor visits, prescription medications, long-term care and mental health care.

Sounds idyllic doesn't it? Well, it is far from a utopian dream. There are systems just like this in place in many other of the world's "advanced" nations, including the U.K., France and Canada.


Don't let Fred Thompson and other morons of his ilk win this one. The interests of all of us normal folks must outweigh the interests of the for-profit health care industry - the HMOs, the health insurance companies, and the giant pharmaceutical companies who's marketing budgets far outstrip the amount they spend on research and development. We really do have to take this to the streets if we want to begin to heal one of the sickest aspects of our society.

Contact HealthCare-NOW to get involved.