Campaign 2008: Universal Health Care

  • Most friends I've talked with are in favor of universal health care. Some presidential candidates try to spook voters by talking about universal health care as if it's taboo, a dirty sin or a blight that's a great evil and will cause America harm.


    Either option, universal or not, will still cost the U.S. a staggering amount of money if costs aren't brought down. A hopeful like Hillary Clinton itemized on her web site measures that would result in net savings, and detailed the figures we would save that could be used to modernize and improve health care delivery.


    The idea that there will be long wait times for procedures, resulting in worsening conditions if not death, is an outdated notion. We have plentiful health care providers now, and universal health care would allow more people to make use of them, but the supply of treatment would offset the demand.

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    Barack Obama would force insurers to pay out a reasonable share of their premiums for patient care instead of keeping exorbitant amounts for profits and administration. Less than four cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health. To their credit, when I had Oxford, the plan reimbursed ME $100 every six months if I documented that I had gone to the gym and engaged in heart-healthy exercise at least three times a week.


    For a good "pro and con" look at universal health care, check out Wikipedia's site. My take is that a mix of public and private and government options is best; a spectrum of choices that mandates everyone has an insurance policy in place.


    Two positives of universal healthcare are listed in the wikipedia site:

    • The profit motive adversely affects the cost and quality of health care. If managed care programs and their concomitant provider networks are abolished, then doctors would no longer be guaranteed patients solely on the basis of their membership in a provider group and regardless of the quality of the care they provide. Theoretically, quality of care would increase as true competition for patients is restored.
    • The profit motive adversely affects the motives of health care. Because of medical underwriting, which is designed to mitigate risk for insurance providers, applicants with pre-existing conditions, some of them minor, are denied coverage or prevented from obtaining health insurance at a reasonable cost. Health insurance companies have greater profits if fewer medical procedures are actually performed, so agents are pressured to deny necessary and sometimes life-savings procedures to help the bottom line.


    This would force both doctors and insurers to sing for their supper, and not all of them can carry a tune. I had a friend whose health insurance premiums would've cost him $15,000 per year out of his own pocket because he has schizophrenia. Giving a tax credit of $2,500, as John McCain, an advocate of free market reform, proposes, barely makes a dent in offsetting the skyrocketing coverage.


    To be fair to those who oppose universal health care systems, we need only rely on wikipedia for some of their main arguments:

    • The profit motive, competition, and individual ingenuity which lead to greater cost control and effectiveness would be eliminated by centralized control.
    • Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay would dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession.
    • Universal health care would reduce efficiency because of more bureaucratic oversight and more paperwork, which could lead to fewer doctor-patient visits.

    With each side entrenched in its position, it's hard for me to believe either one. The fact is, regardless of HOW a doctor gets paid, and WHO pays him or her, our nation's health care costs WILL get paid, by someone, sometime, and those costs will continue to be a disproportionately large slice of the American pie.

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    I'm not from Missouri, however, the state's "show me" expression is one that comes to mind as I sift through and sort out the candidate's "prescriptions" for our ailing system. As I've said, I believe a mix of options is the best workable solution. I'm wary of the candidates that are on either extreme side of the spectrum.


    What I need to know: if we institute universal health care, or if we choose the free market reform option, either way, how soon will we see an improvement, and will there still be some Americans without insurance? If we go with free market reform, what exactly will that presidential candidate do to ensure the stated goal is reached? To me, "free market reform" is an ambiguous phrase and I'd like to see a plan that itemizes and details what kinds of free market reform will be enacted.


    Opponents of universal health care believe that "socialized medicine" will be costly and raise taxes. I suppose because "I have to see it to believe it" I'm not yet convinced either option will work. Already I've listed my deal-breakers that some of the candidates have made their number-one platform, so as tempting as free market reform sounds, I'm less willing to go with that than with the universal healthcare option.


    Americans have been rowing a leaky insurance boat for years. Premiums are rising, and honest, hard-working, decent citizens of this great country are sinking under their medical bills, too often forced into bankruptcy.


    The bottom line: I'm willing to take universal health care for a spin.


    The more I write about Campaign 2008, the more I believe that each of us has to take the risk to vote for the candidate we think will address our needs the best. It remains to be seen whether the next president will make good on his or her promises.

Published On: December 26, 2007