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National health care insurance option NOW

June 8, 2009

President Obama is pushing health care reform, because it’s gotten to the level of a major economic problem in addition to the humanitarian one it’s been all along.  I’ve had more exposure to our health care system lately than I ever thought possible, but thanks to excellent health insurance it isn’t likely to ruin me financially.  I’m in an extremely fortunate category in that respect. 

Many people have health insurance that isn’t worth a damn.  A recent Harvard study concluded that more than half of the bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical debt of people who have health insurance.  Seriously!  The big companies have entire divisions full of people in rooms without windows, pushing around data forms with your name on them, whose only job is to deny care wherever they can.

Another terrible scenario: no health insurance at all, which is truly walking a high wire without a net.  It’s easy to criticize the foolhardiness of the tightrope walker as long as you keep yourself from knowing how they were pushed out onto the wire in the first place.  Which leads to a very telling comment that MrsDoF received at her mammogram appointment today:

“I’m glad you’re here!” said the technician.  “I’ve been bored out of my tree.  People are losing their health insurance and canceling their mammograms.”

Stop right there: I don’t want to hear one damn word from anyone about “health care rationing” in those eeeevil Socialist countries with single-payer insurance.  I personally know plenty of people who are walking-wounded because they can’t afford health insurance that actually works. In previous years, I’ve been there myself.  If someone insists on living in a Ryandian bubble, that is their privilege but the rest of us would prefer that policies be informed by experimental results.  For example, if you need health care, what IS it really like in those other countries?  The Denialism blog has been doing a nifty series on it: What’s it like in Canada, the UK, and New Zealand?  Or France or GermanyAustralia or The Netherlands?

What does Obama’s plan look like? What should a national health care system look likeWhat’s the cause of excess cost in US health care? Are patients in universal health care countries less satisfied? 

Taken together these posts paint a picture of several ways it can be done, by pretty much any modern industrialized country except, apparently, ours.  They’re spending less per person than we do and getting better results.  Maybe it’s because people go to the doctor when they’re sick, instead of holding out until it becomes an emergency room visit.  Maybe it’s because companies in those countries aren’t crippled by health insurance costs; the society as a whole bears it more gracefully.  Maybe their medical communities are less concerned with defensive medicine and covering their asses.  But the point is, even if their systems aren’t perfect, they work, for a much wider swath of society.

It’s painfully clear to me that the Republicans are going to dig in their heels on health care reform, and preserve every inch of the status quo that they possibly can.  There’s no bipartisanship to it.  So we’re not going to get single-payer in this country, at least not as long as the really big money is against it.  But we need a government insurance option for the uninsured, and we need it NOW.  It’s been a darned sweet ride for the private health insurance companies, and that’ll continue on some level for sure.  But let’s try to get this one thing right, while the issue is on the table.


Categories: Economics, Politics
  1. Ray
    June 8, 2009 at 16:20 | #1

    I grew up in the UK, and when I moved here I was totally aghast at the concept of having to pay actual money to visit the doctor. I was totally baffled by the concept of “for-profit health insurance”, and oxymoron that ought to floor any thinking person. How could such a thing ever actually work, at least from the patient’s point of view. And then there’s the concept of not being able to move easily between jobs because there may not be health benefits (BENEFITS??? In all normal countries, access to effective health care is a basic human right!!) in the new company.

    The series in Denialism blog was spot-on, and I can only hope that enough people pull the blinkers from their eyes and push for meaningful reform. For pretty much the first time since I moved here, I have begun to write regularly to my congressional representatives, urging them to take this unique opportunity to bring about the changes that ought to have been made decades ago. I just hope that there are sufficient of them with enough of a backbone to stand up to the entrenched interests.

    And while I’m here, thank you for this blog, and all my best wishes for a full recovery from that which ails you.

  2. Sue
    June 8, 2009 at 20:12 | #2

    My son lives in Germany and has 2 young children. They have no complaints re. their healthcare, in fact they would be very apprehensive about moving back to the states due to our lack of universal health care.  My sister and her family in Canada feel the same way. They have raised 4 children and have 12 grandchildren and they have had no problems with their healthcare system either!  So no one can tell me single payer unviversal healthcare doesn’t work!!  It just ain’t so!

  3. cindy
    June 9, 2009 at 04:21 | #3

    I just read a great article about not copying what anyone else does; the new healthcare system in the U.S. (when and if it ever happens, and it needs to!) will be new and its own.  Wish I could find it!

    I have friends from England who deplore the healthcare system there.


  4. Ray
    June 9, 2009 at 06:23 | #4

    Cindy, I’m not advocating that the US adopt any particular model, simply that they provide meaningful universal coverage that is not linked to a profit motive. Naturally, whatever country you are from, there will be problems with the health care system, and you will always find examples of people who have had really bad experiences with it. I don’t claim that in the UK to be anywhere near perfect; however, it *is* overall far better than what we have in the US. It is also true that nobody in the UK has ever gone bankrupt and lost everything they worked for all their lives, simply because they became ill.

    The real test would be in trying to take away the National Health Care service in the UK. You’d have a civil war on your hands.

  5. June 9, 2009 at 16:04 | #5

    If we don’t move to a universal “single payer” system, I think any “reform” will just be giving the boogy man a haircut.

    Our stupid health care “system” is paupering our country (along with a few other stupidities).

  6. June 9, 2009 at 21:16 | #6

    Sorry to be a cynic, but I don’t think the US is politically or socially capable of constructing a rational system, much less single payer, which I prefer and which has served my family well.

  7. Joe
    June 14, 2009 at 06:48 | #7

    My wife is a mammo tech and she says her business has slowed way down, due to women losing their health insurance. So, your wife’s tech isn’t the only one.

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