10 September 2012

Health Care in America: a vision of what it should be

Today I wanted to write about my vision for health care in America.

Health care in America: what it is

To be depressingly honest with you, it is a mess. Health insurance companies profit from illness; people are denied care or are told which physicians they can and cannot seek services from; physicians must pay absurd amounts in malpractice and liability insurance. This has created a culture of sickness and mistrust. But I'm not the expert here. There are others, physicians, that have first hand experience of what health care in America is like. Here is a brief summary from Physicians for a National Health Program:

Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($8,160 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 51 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.
The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

Now that we have a better idea of where we are, here is where I would like us to be.

Health care in America: what it should be

My vision for health care in America is very simple. People that need health care should receive it and it should not be a crippling financial burden for them. How many horror stories have you heard of where people that had to seek care for a serious illness were bankrupted from their medical bills. This is not at all fair. I make a modest salary but I would be very happy to pay a tax that would go to help people receive medical care.

Actually, I think that we can do much more for our communities than merely providing them with access to affordable health care of the highest quality. I think we can invest in health and wellness and promote a better quality of life that has a greatly reduced prevalence of chronic disease. This is my dream.

I know that others share this vision because there are thousands of university students studying community health and wellness each year, working to create communities that are respectful of individual health and wellness and promote optimal well being.

One of the first steps is to create a health care system in America that can meet our medical needs today.

Single-Payer Health care

I'm going to share the best explanation of single-payer health care that I can find. It is from Physicians for a National Health Program.

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.
Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
Physicians would be paid fee-for-service according to a negotiated formulary or receive salary from a hospital or nonprofit HMO / group practice. Hospitals would receive a global budget for operating expenses. Health facilities and expensive equipment purchases would be managed by regional health planning boards.
A single-payer system would be financed by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste. Modest new taxes would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business. Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing.

This is what I think we should do with our health care system here in the United States. This makes sense to me.

Two resources for reading more about single-payer health care and health care in America:

Health care in America today is a mess. It has become an issue of ideology and political rhetoric. Meanwhile, there are people suffering. It doesn't have to be that way. We can make subtle changes that can be implemented in a very short amount of time to make a realistic impact. That is what I believe.

I'm sure that you have an opinion or a story of your own to share. What is your vision for health care in America?

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