Universal Health Care, Please

The United States is the only major developed nation in the world not to have universal health care.  We are the richest nation in the world.  Other nations can afford it and so can we.  It is not only a the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense as well.

Countries with universal healthcare : r/AmerExit

No one should die because they cannot afford health care.  No one who works hard at a job and pays their bills should be forced into bankruptcy or into homelessness because of unexpected or large medical bills.  Seniors should not have to choose between the medicines they need and food to eat.  What kind of a society would allow these things to happen?

We already recognize many of these facts.  For example, we have enacted laws that require emergency departments to treat people in a medical emergency, regardless of their ability to pay.  We have created a system of Medicare to provide health care to seniors and some others but which does not cover all health care or all medication costs.  We have federal programs to provide health care to some but not all impoverished children and adults.  But there are many who cannot afford health care and who, for one reason or another, are not able to benefit from the care programs we do provide.

The way in which we are paying for health care for some of the most impoverished is about as inefficient as can be.  If you develop a life-threatening emergency, or any emergency for that matter, you can go to the emergency department and be treated.  Although you will be billed for the care, they cannot deny you the care, even if they realize that you will never be able to pay the bill.  After you have been discharged from the hospital, the cost of that health care does not just disappear into thin air.  Doctors have to be paid.  Nurses have to be paid.  The hospital has to pay to keep its doors open.  The cost of the health care provided to the indigent person gets divided among all of the other people who go to the hospital for treatment.  Their bills are higher because the hospital has to spread the costs of treatment among all those able to pay.  Even the most conservative fiscal hawk will concede this is a terrible and inefficient way to pay for indigent health care.

The inefficiency does not stop there, however.  Why do we insist that you allow your medical problem to become an emergency before we agree to treat it?  There are very few medical conditions that do not benefit from early treatment.  If you are forced to wait until your problem has reached the level of a medical emergency, the likelihood that the doctors will be able to completely cure you has gone way down.  Think about all the health conditions that afflict poorer neighborhoods in large part because the people who live there do not get regular preventive health care.  Heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure, peripheral nerve diseases, liver and kidney diseases, alcoholism, and drug abuse are all examples which, if recognized and treated early, would save the United States billions of health care dollars each year and make many people healthier in the bargain.

Even those who can afford to buy health insurance or those fortunate few who have health insurance provided to them as a benefit of their employment don’t escape the risks of our terrible health care delivery system.   They may be in plans with high deductibles or high co-pays or both.  A significant, chronic illness can overwhelm even the best health insurance plans and ruin financial lives as much as the illness ruins physical lives.

And yet we continue to balk at taking the final steps to universal health care.  The reason, of course, is money.  There are very rich and powerful forces that benefit from the system as it is today.  Any change which benefits American citizens by providing good health care to all threatens their financial model and is fought tooth and nail.  Take, for example, the issue of drug prices.  We pay the highest drug prices in the world.  For many years, the American people have made clear their desire that Medicare be allowed to negotiate with the drug companies over drug prices.  Despite the clear will of the American people, Congress would not act and, in fact, passed a law forbidding Medicare from negotiating.  Finally, last year Congress removed the roadblock, but required that the negotiations apply to only a few drugs every year.  Even so, the drug companies have gone to court to stop it.  It is as yet unknown how successful they will be, but they have expensive lawyers.

In addition to the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the pharmacy benefit managers, the large hospital chains and some medical specialists would lose money, if the system were to change.  If change is ever on the horizon, prepare to be told that you will not get to choose your doctor, that you will have to wait for years to get elective surgery, that new drugs and treatments will dry up due to lack of incentive, that your life will be a living hell, and on and on and on.

We are getting closer to universal health care but we have a long way yet to go.  Please don’t give up the fight.  It is the right thing to do for all of us.

Posted in Doctors, drug companies, Fee for Service, General Health, health, Health Care Costs, Health Insurers, healthy living, Hospitals, Medical Costs, Medicare, Type 2 Diabetes |