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The Cure For Obamacare-A Little Common Sense
Healthcare in America
As the richest country in the world, American healthcare is not even a distant second to other developed countries. The United States poor and uninsured receive minimal care within the structures of our current policy. State senators and representatives scream across an invisible fence, creating a division of fiscal responsibility versus social necessity. Angry words spew from the lips of frothing mouths: “Everyone deserves quality care! It is a basic right, and should not be disputed in this great nation!” “You can’t have what you can’t pay for! Socialized medicine leads to government rationing!” is the reply. Pinned between the politics are the people. Doctors eager for their patients’ health, but desperate to pay rising administrative costs and liability insurance, ply their trade with more eagerness to avoid a lawsuit than to treat the symptoms with any sort of logic. Many citizens are tied to their jobs, afraid to venture out on their own because of the loss of insurance. A local business owner says “it was the hardest thing to deal with when starting our own business” (Bayless). In fact, 60% of all bankruptcy in America is a result of mounting medical bills. Bankruptcy due to medical bills rose 50% between 2001 and 2007 (Tamkins). The most ironic thing of all is that Americans already pay more for medical care than any nation in the world. Despite the divide of our nation’s leaders, the call for a solution to the healthcare crisis is more important now than ever.
Despite all the political rhetoric, President Obama saw what healthcare posed to the American public; a national crisis. In Jonathan Alter’s biography of the president’s first year in office, he describes the president’s growing interest in this social tempest that that the media has dubbed “Obama care”:
One of the most eye-opening conversations of the entire transition was when Peter Orszag explained to him that failing to control Medicare and Medicaid… would make balancing the budget impossible without cutting [all non-defense spending] by 70 %. Insurance premiums for individuals had more than doubled in a decade of low inflation. Healthcare… was unsustainable and would wreck the fiscal future of the country. (246)
With this in mind, President Obama pushed one of the most controversial bills in history through congress. Obama’s health care bill is the largest expansion of government in decades. With a socialist approach to governing, the President hopes to cure the nation of a growing sickness. But what are the ultimate goals with respect to healthcare? What can both sides agree on? Is “Obama care” or complete privatization the answer to the healthcare crisis? What is the root cause of the crisis in America?
Healthcare In Other Countries
First, let’s look at some models of both privatization and socialized medical care. In 1980, China reversed its socialist policies regarding healthcare and moved toward complete privatization. Out of pocket expenses surged to 58% of healthcare spending as opposed to 20% in 1978. Only 29% of Chinese have health insurance, which they now need in order to cover the costs of care (Blumenthal). While the number of healthcare facilities grows, access for the poor and middle class has waned. Today, in an effort to correct the failings of this system, the Chinese government has instituted mandatory health savings plans coupled with catastrophic insurance.
For an adequate analogy of socialized medical care, we need only look north. Canada has drawn both criticism and praise, and is looked at more often than any other country when arguing for or against socialized health care. In Canada, access to healthcare is available to all via a government based insurance plan that consumes 22% of all taxes collected It is illegal for [citizens] to carry private insurance coverage for any healthcare services provided by the government. In Canada, it is “illegal to seek or convey private medical assistance” (Lehr). Couple this with fewer doctors as a result of lower pay, and you have a system where people have to leave the country to receive quick reliable healthcare. Other radical measures are being considered as well. “Two Indian nations are planning to build private hospitals on tribal lands, where the Canadian laws do not apply” (Lehr). Without adequate compensation for the effort made to become a doctor, inevitably these men and women will pursue other more lucrative career choices.
What has socialized healthcare done for our own country?
The following graph shows that the price of medical care tracked the consumer price index until Medicare and Medicaid was introduced.
Apparently, the most likely contributor to our rising medical costs is the very thing that Obama has endorsed- government run health programs. Newt Gingrich gives a pointed argument, saying “Despite limitless examples of government failure, [liberals] expect tens of thousands of bureaucrats to run healthcare efficiently” (104). In both examples (Chinese and Canadian health plans), huge flaws point the finger to a necessity for a hybrid policy that combines the best of both approaches toward medicine. The perfect plan to fix healthcare must provide the best healthcare to all citizens while emphasizing consumer responsibility, protecting the interests of our care providers, and encouraging a “common sense” approach to the detection and prevention of disease.
A Hybrid Plan Is The Cure
In my Common Sense health plan, all individual earners will have 10% of their pay put into a health savings plan that they can draw from to pay medical bills that make up 10% of their gross salary. By law, all individuals or couples earning $50,000 or more will be required to purchase catastrophic insurance that will cover health costs exceeding ten percent of their income. The top 5% of earners will have a graduated tax scale to cover the costs of the poor’s catastrophic insurance. Medicare and Medicaid will phase out completely and all elderly will be given benefits in the form of medical vouchers. Insurance will be made available across state lines. It will become law for all medical practitioners to post a “fees for services” schedule that all people can access. Laws will be passed to protect doctors from malpractice litigation by placing a cap on the dollar amount of lawsuits to encourage doctors to make “common sense” decisions, rather than order an abundance of unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. An online health record for every citizen will be posted and available to all doctors who treat them to prevent mistakes due to poor documentation of diseases and treatment.
The solution to our Health Care crisis is a common sense approach that abandons party politics and pride, and puts an emphasis on the solutions that will work. A common sense health plan would put control back in the hands of citizens (an easy way to control inflation), but would also protect everyone from catastrophic injuries that deflate the economy due to unnecessary bankruptcy. It combines proper ethics with conservative fundamentals to provide a service that should be a right to all citizens. No longer would care be ceded only to those who have the financial means to provide for themselves. The answer lies in the hands of both Republican and Democrat. If we can put down our pride and roll up our sleeves, healthcare for all is only one courageous step away.
Brett A. Wood
Alter, Jonathan. The Promise: President Obama, Year One. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.Print.
Bayless, Diana. Personal interview. 16 April 2011.
Blumenthal, David and William Hsiao. “Privatization and Its Discontents- The Evolving ChineseHealthcare System. NEJM. New England Journal of Medicine, 15 Sep. 2005. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
Figure 1. “Price Increases.” Chart. Charting the Economy. 14 April 2009. Web. Charting the Economy. 13 April 2011.
Gingrich, Newt. To Save America. Washington: Regnery, 2011. Print.
Lehr, Jay. “Canadian Healthcare Is No Model For U.S.” Heartland. Health Care News, 1 June 2004. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
Orszag, Peter. “Malpractice Methodology.” NY Times. The New York Times, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
Robinson, Sara. “Mythbusting Canadian Healthcare- Part I.” Our Future. Campaign for America’s Future, 4 Feb. 2008. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
Tamkins, Theresa. “Medical Bills Prompt More Than 60 Percent of U.S. Bankruptcies.” CNN. CNN Health, 5 June 2009. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.