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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

US Healthcare Mess

I have been following the American efforts to find a way to reform their health care system. It is a painful thing to watch. While there is widespread agreement that change is necessary as the costs are rising out of control leaving an increasing number of people unable to afford coverage or even with coverage risk going bankrupt in the face of major illness. But what must be done to solve the problem?

The problem with the American health system has not been adequately analysised and explained. Instead there is an effort to frustrate the process of change with the best efforts money can buy. Those with a vested interest in doing nothing, the insurance and drug industry, have the deepest pockets. There money has corrupted the system of reasonable debate though advertising using all the illogical arguments possible: distortion, exageration, straw man argument, fear, lies etc. They also have swayed politicians with their campaign funding. Such seems to be the American way of doing politics.

In broad terms the discussion is between whether private insurance or publicly funded and administered insurance, or some combination of the two, is the best way to achieve a goal of having more people covered by health insurance while realizing ways to lower the cost. (Americans costs per person are about $7,000 a year which is twice what Canada's are and Canada get better overall health results.)

Like Canada, all other wealthy industrialized countries, except the US, have some form of government funded health care. Even the US does in the form of Medicare for the elderly and veterans medical coverage. These seem to be seen as exceptions, for government funded health coverage is widely criticized.

President Obama was to be the agent of change for the US. On the healthcare issue from the beginning he has been less than a real advocate for basic change.
While at one time he supported the idea of a single payer universal government funded health care system he settled for tinkering with a combination of private and publically funded health care program that basically had the public purse funding private insurance. In fact from the beginning a truly universal government funded health care program was kept off the table. It was not one of the options. Those that favoured it were denied a voice. And yet, time and again I have read that as many as 62% of Americans would like a health care system similar to Canada. It seems the politicans do not want to give the people what they want. The fix is in. As things stand today, there may not be any kind of public health care insurance system. At best the US may end up with a largely privately funded system with a weak public option for those in need of charity.

Americans need to see the healthcare system as a moral problem for the Nation.

"How do we best care for each other as a community!" Here is one Presbyterian minister's discussion of this point.

Health care needs to be understood as a right and not a privilege. As long as a government funded health care program is seen as a charity there will always be the division between those who can afford private health care and those that they feel they must fund (and begrudge) out of public taxes.

The fact of the matter is that private health insurance is a large part of the problem and offers little solutions to the health care problems of cost and coverage. Obama and the Democrats should have stood for real change rejecting the dominance of private insurance.They have had their chance to offer coverage and in the process of corporate greed have shot themselves in the foot. Private health care needs to be pushed aside and a truly universal single payer system implimented. Private insurers might still have a role in insuring for the luxuries of medical care but the basic, and a broad base it should be, needs to be government funded. Only this way will there be universal coverage and financial savings.

The advantages of a universal single payer health care system are obvious. Everyone is covered. No one will go bankrupt as a result of health care expenses. Parasitic agencies like HMO's and Insurance companies are pushed aside. Doctors can focus on practicing medicine to all who seek it rather than trying to guarantee they will be paid for their services. Business will be relieved of the burden of having to offer health insurance to their workers which often leaves them at a competative disadvantage in the market place. Patients are more likely to seek care early rather than in at a chronic stage. And of course, preventative medicine can be practiced and paid for. If is beyond my comprehension why Americans would want to hang on to private insurance health care.

There are many kinds of government funded programs. Few of them are truly "socialist". Canada is government funded but privaely run. Doctors and hospitals are not government employees. Doctors are private entrepeneurs who are paid for their services to patience by government funds at a rate acceptable to doctors and the government. Overall,the French seem to have the best system.

The best article I read about the US health care system and Canada's health care system was sent to me by an American friend. It is well worth reading.

Who should pay? Americans seem to be obsessed about taxes. I was taught that it was a privilege to pay taxes and contribute to the well being of the country that we cherish and which meets so many of our needs. Of course, Canada is a country that places a high value on "good government" (and for the most part get it). We expect our tax dollars to pay for the services we require and not be lost to corrupt practices. Well, the government does not have a separate source of income. Health care will be paid for through taxation. Businesses and individuals, above a certain income level will pay taxes according to their ability to pay. The tax burden should be a lot less than private insurance. In this way we fund a health care system in which we care of one another and meet our moral responsibility for the health of the community.

It will be really sad to see the US miss the opportunity to develop a truly progressive health care system. There are many countries with excellent health care systems from which the US could learn in order to develop an excellent one of their own to cover everyone at a reasonable cost.

For background information of the World Health Organization's ranking of health care systems visit their site

For a simple chart comparing the health care systems among industrialized countries scroll to the bottom of this web page.


At 2:24 p.m., Blogger Loretta said...

I can't make heads or tails out of this mess. The more I read the more mixed up I get!

At 4:22 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

In a sense, America is almost a rogue nation. Guns are good, universal health care is bad. There is such rampant paranoia over the socialism label that any discussion gets totally muddied and confused.

At 5:16 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Philip--you put your finger precisely on the problem when you say you were taught that paying taxes is a privilege.
We Americans in the U.S. come from a long history of tax rebellion--ha--it's how we came to be a nation. So people here fuss and fuss about taxes. It drives me nuts. I always try to use a conversational opener, when the subject arises, that points out what we get for taxes.
And, please--don't get me started on the current health care "debate" in the U.S. I am furious that the conservatives have hijacked the topic.
Ok, gotta simmer down, here.

At 3:04 p.m., Blogger amelia said...


I don't understand it at all!! I thought it was a good thing in the beginning but now I'm not so sure!!

At 10:54 a.m., Blogger possum said...

This whole mess is getting sadder and sadder everyday. I went to a Republican election rally over the week-end (VA elects a governor this year) and it was an anger fest! People were yelling "They are gonna take our guns!" And "Obama is gonna kill our grandmothers!" They did not want their kids to listen to Obama's pro education speech in school - and everyone asked me if I watched Glen Beck - 'cause he tells it like it is. Death panels? These people are being whipped into a frenzy of lies and so much confusion, it is heartbreaking.

Good post Philip. I will recommend it to my mailing list. Thanks.


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