Week of 7.26.2009
Ron Cruger
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            The debate about providing all Americans with health care insurance rages on in the Senate and the House. President Obama is constantly appearing on our television screens urging Senators and Representatives to pass a comprehensive bill that would provide all Americans with adequate medical care. He’s getting more face-time on TV than that girl in the white apron for Progressive Insurance.
          There are over forty six million uninsured Americans under the age of sixty five. Among other groups, thirty nine percent of Native American are uninsured. Forty percent of Hispanics are uninsured. There are over eight million uninsured children in the U.S., representing twenty eight percent of their population.
          Most of the uninsured can’t afford the monthly insurance payments. A Kaiser Family foundation study recently found that forty five percent of low-income adults under the age of sixty five lack health insurance. There are endless statistics relating to this whole area, but we all know of people in their forties, fifties or sixties who haven’t been to a doctor or a dentist in years because of the costs involved. These people are waiting to turn sixty five so they can be eligible for government sponsored Medicare. Until they reach that magical age they are gambling that nothing will go wrong with their minds or bodies. A highly unlikely happenstance.
          A higher percentage of people used to be covered by health insurance, but with the rapid growth of the cost of insurance premiums and the decline of employer sponsored insurance programs millions dropped out of their health care programs, winding up as additional uninsured statistics.
          As the statistics mount, the cost of health care rises. One, just one, of the reasons for the steadily increasing price of medical care is the cost of treating the uninsured, which is most often absorbed by providers as charity care, which is passed on to the insured by way of cost shifting and higher health insurance premiums, or paid by taxpayers through higher taxes.
          A federal law requires that hospital emergency departments treat emergency conditions of all patients regardless of their ability to pay. In recent years, it is no accident that emergency room visits in the U.S. grew by twenty six percent, and during the same period, the number of emergency departments declined by four hundred and twenty five. Emergency departments, responding to emergency situations are faced with one hundred and twenty million medical visits a year. Uninsured patients account for one fifth of all emergency department visits. We are all paying for those “charge it” visits.
          During the past two days I asked an elected politician what his thoughts were in answer to the health care dilemma. His immediate reply was, “I don’t have the answer, but I do know that health care can’t work with the government involved with it. Whatever the program is if the government is involved it will cost fifty percent more than if private enterprise did it.”
          Yesterday I asked a highly skilled, experienced nurse, “What do you think should be done concerning getting health care for more Americans?” Her answer was, “I hope the government doesn’t try to ‘re-invent the wheel.’ The system is already in place. It’s called Medicare. The government should just use Medicare as the basis for the new plan.”
          And the debate continues. The President is hustling Senators and Representatives to hurry up and enact something. Republicans are balking and a few Democrats are starting to recoil from the proposed plan.
          The President hasn’t read the one thousand plus pages that outline the mammoth health care reform program. Who has?
          My hope is that the President and the law-makers will slow the process down and come together to produce a workable plan to offer health care to all Americans. A plan that will actually work.
          But, going into this inventive, creative state the President, the Senators, the Representatives must realize that if we are to provide a workable health care plan to all Americans it is going to cost all of us more that it does now.
          Nobody wants to pay more taxes. Nobody wants to share in the increased cost of a more comprehensive program. The President has told us that eventually there will be savings in the health care program due to improvement in productivity.
          The President has told us that under his new plan the government will get more efficient.
          Now we must face the realistic portion of all of this.
          First, one way or another, our taxes will increase.
          Secondly, the new program will cost more than the current programs.
          Thirdly, government programs don’t provide savings due to improvement in productivity.
          Fourth, governments don’t get more efficient.
          Hold on to your wallets, Americans. Tightly.
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