Making sense of the health care reform

President Obama rallied citizens for national health care reform Sept. 12 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Using Rochester’s Mayo Clinic as a model, Obama called for accessible, effective health care at a sustainable cost, as Congress discusses the most ambitious health care legislation since 1994.

It’s difficult to write a thrilling speech about reforming America’s health care delivery system. The intricacy of our health insurance, prescription drug and medical profit structure overwhelmed many people who tried to follow the debate this summer. Most Americans still aren’t sure what’s in the latest version of the bill.

Since 1945, every Democratic and several Republican presidents have tried to reform American health care, usually by expanding coverage. But this year’s reform is different. Besides providing insurance to as many people as possible, there is a focus on improving overall, long-term value throughout the health care delivery system, with an emphasis on preventive care.

When properly informed of the contents of proposed bills, most Americans favor the creation of a government insurance option available to all citizens, or “public option,” to compete alongside private insurance.

It’s good in my view, this not only makes insurance more accessible, but because government insurance is not profit-driven, it spares people private insurance’s most glaring flaws.

In 2007, McKinsey Group reported that 20 to 30 percent of health care dollars went to excessive administrative costs, lobbying, marketing, CEO salaries and profit taking.

According to The Wall Street Journal, insurance companies avoided paying out $20 billion to customers through “denial management” in 2007, using “middlemen” to find reasons to deny or renege on reimbursements, money that people expected to be paid under their insurance plans.

One study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses, and of those, 80 percent actually had existing health insurance. In countries with a public health insurance option, this is unheard-of if you have coverage.

Americans pay more for health care than any country in the world, and our government also spends a higher percentage of its budget on health care than any other country. National health spending is expected to account for 17.6 percent of our gross domestic product for 2009.

And health care costs are rising like college tuitions. Employee-sponsored health insurance premiums rose four times faster than wages and inflation from 1999 to 2008, and as large numbers of the American population age and require more intensive treatment, the stress on our nation’s health care system will increase.

With the economic downturn, many laid-off or part-time workers now find themselves unable to afford health insurance; this includes nine million uninsured children not covered under SCHIP, an aid program specifically for uninsured children. Many of those with jobs are reluctant to leave for better opportunities, because that would mean losing insurance coverage for their families.

Opponents of health care reform question the ability of our government to provide health care, but according to an August 2009 Gallup poll, 29 percent of the country’s population, approximately 100 million people, already had public health insurance from the government through Medicare, Medicaid, the military or veterans’ programs.

As a senior, it makes me nervous to hear talk of a “jobless recovery”, that even as the economy improves, job creation will lag and employment will remain low. I struggled to make sense of health care reform, but it made me wonder why we’re the only industrialized country not to have some kind of public health insurance alternative.

I tried to follow this story this summer, and I was amazed at how misled people were by arguments that had nothing to do with any actual proposed bills.

I know this topic wasn’t the most interesting summer read, but it would be nice if some of my fellow, older Americans would put down their assault rifles and pick up a copy of the bill. After all, my generation is paying for it.

One Reply to “Making sense of the health care reform”

  1. Great article. I’m not sure that getting those guys to trade their rifles for a copy of the bill would actually help us any. Other than the cynical leaders, few of those folks can read and comprehend at a college level. Those that can, don’t care about the truth. And as one woman branishing a bible asserted: “This is all I need to know about everything.” Reason and logic actually have the opposite effect on them. Studies have shown that providing evidence that their expressed belief is contrary to fact actually increases the strength of that belief.

    There is 25 to 35% of our population that is deeply FUBARed. People who can still believe that Bush did a good job, have some real problems with objective reality. Wrong-way Wilson who dissed the entire nation by falsing claiming Obama lied, used to be an aide for the late great Strom Thurmond who led the longest fillibuster in history trying to block the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. But of course, all these fine folks will tell you that race has nothing to do with it. It’s just a coincidence that Obama’s fiercest critics are gun-toting uber-“patriots” who hail from KKK country.

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