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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/21/10

Reforming Health Care is Not Optional

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Message Linda Adams
Americans opposing health care reform do not grasp the fact that we will eventually be forced to reform. The United States is simply on an unsustainable course. Healthcare costs are rising at just under 10% per year. So, in 10 years, costs will double. They will double for corporations, small businesses, unions, pension funds, individuals, and our government.

Foreign state involvement in health insurance coverage is one reason why laying off U.S. workers and hiring overseas is cost effective. As U.S. companies increase global hiring and U.S. workers lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, as fewer small employers are able to afford insurance for their workers, as increasing numbers of those who pay for their own health insurance can no longer afford it, as taxpayers must pay more and more to insure government workers and those on government pensions, our system will break. The money will not be there to sustain the current path. Eventually, enough Americans will see the problem because they will experience the problem.

It would be much better to act now to head off a crisis. But too many Americans have their heads in the sand. They take for fact the disinformation coming into their Inbox. Too few are willing to look at the facts themselves, to read the health reform legislation, and to follow the money trail of reform opposition that leads directly to the huge health insurance cartel. The money this cartel has spent to pay lobbyists, influence congress, and sway public opinion is without precedent. But it's been money well spent; the cartel has been very effective. People look to those who have very specific agendas and assume they're getting facts. It's so sad, and so detrimental to our citizens and the prosperity of our country. Unfortunately, people are going to have to suffer in order to wake up. And by then, the costs and the mess will have dramatically increased in magnitude.

From looking at how other countries handle health insurance and health care, it's quite clear that having a public health insurance option is the best and most effective way to maintain a high level of quality and control costs. No other method proves as effective. And the proof is there. When I hear people say we need a uniquely American solution, the hair on my neck stands up. When the entire rest of the industrialized world is a laboratory that we can study, why on earth would we refuse to look at how other countries have done things? What did this country do, what are the positives and negatives? What did that country do, how did it work, what were the pitfalls? Because we are the only - note, the only - industrialized nation that does not universally cover its citizens, the rest of the wealthy nations have kindly run pilot projects for us. And when you look at them, a public health insurance option is #1 in effectiveness.

Germany, by most criteria, is the gold standard of health systems. Yes, it ranks higher than the U.S. by all qualified measures. But then, no matter what independent organization you look at and no matter what they measure, the U.S. does not rank even close to the top. The European systems to which we love to think we're superior all rank above the U.S. All these systems spend less than we do as a percent of GDP; all have universal coverage, all rank higher in quality, and all have slower growth in health care costs. But do we care? No. We're content to leave things the way they are because for most Americans, it's working today. And most Americans are afraid to upset the apple cart, even though the apple cart is tipping whether we realize it or not. Most Americans just aren't being hit in the head with the apples yet. We do not need to fear change. Studying what has worked for our fellow wealthy nations should give us confidence to move forward with reform. If we don't, we walk a perilous course.

One of my favorite arguments against reform is that we can't handle the influx of newly insured people. What an amazing lack of compassion this displays, not to mention a lack of economic acumen. When a market expands, be it for some new widget or health care, does capacity increase? Or do those who stand to benefit from the expansion say, naw, we don't want to make additional money, we won't expand to take advantage of the market. Capacity increases to meet market demand, every time!

Just for the sake of argument, let's say capacity doesn't increase or takes awhile to increase. Universal health coverage would add 15% to the rolls of the insured. And the uninsured are disproportionately young so they're also disproportionately healthy. But, again for the sake of argument, let's pretend they'd put the same load on the health care system as those currently insured. Appointments in my health system run from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. That's seven hours per day. An increase of 15% more patients would cause me to wait one hour and five minutes longer for an appointment. Can I live with that to care for my fellow Americans? You bet I can and shame on anyone who can't.

We need reform. We need a public health insurance option. And we need it today. The unsustainable train is flying down the track. If you look, its lights can be seen in the distance. If we do not change course, the train will hit us.

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Linda is a grant writer living in California. Politically independent, pro health insurance reform and choice, pro eradication of corporate communism where money is made by shedding risk to the taxpayer.
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Reforming Health Care is Not Optional

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