Friday, July 3, 2009

This mess of a thing we call Health Care Reform

I have been meaning, for some time, to write about the status of health care reform in the US. After all, this is a blog mostly centered on health care issues and I am a health advocate, how can I not comment on such an issue like health care reform? (Ah but come on, my thoughts on the Twilight series are so relevant to the state of the world). But, it has been a daunting task. Everyday something new comes out in the news and honestly, I am not even sure where some people/entities stand on the issue sometimes. This post is in no way, an end all and be all of health care reform. Rather, it is meant to be a gathering of news and updates on the status of health care and who is doing what. Maybe eventually, we can all figure this out (and maybe even have access to affordable health care too, but that may be asking too much).

As much as I would like to meet this subject with an air of neutrality, I find it near impossible. I’ve seen and heard too much to be impartial. It’s very hard for me to find sympathy for wealthy people and industry who have held the power over our health care system for too long. I am not deluded enough to believe that a national system would be perfect all around. But, I cannot see health care as anything other than a right for all people, not just those who can afford it.

Let’s take a look at who some of the major players are in health care reform and where they stand.

The Obama Administration:
Obama assured us all in his 2008 presidential campaign that he would fight for universal health care coverage and that a combination national/private health care plan would be the best route for the U.S. This sounded great to many of us, although those of us who have paid attention to previous health care reform attempts (IE. The Clintons’ attempt in the 90’s) realized this would be an uphill battle.

Now that he’s in office and attempting to take on this beast in his first year, we see a mess of cost issues, industry influence and anti-national health insurance propaganda. My concern is that, now in office, will Obama bow to the pressure and his campaign promise will not be accomplished? Will he have to compromise to make even smaller changes, working toward gradual reform? We voted you in with hope, Obama. Please don’t let us down.

Congressional Democrats:
Democrats are mostly pushing for a combination national/private health care program. Now they have to show us the costs of such a program and where we can save money.

Republicans are fighting against any form of government run plan, even in combination with private insurance. They fear that employers will drop private insurance and force people into the government plan.

American Medical Association (aka Doomsday to any attempts at national health care):
The AMA hates public programs that reimburse doctors at a lower rate than private plans. They have fought all attempts at public health care programs and would like to see Medicare eliminated, as well as charitable care reduced. They claim that individuals should ultimately be responsible for their own health care.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP):
Not all doctors belong to the AMA. Some doctors are for a national health care program, PHNP is an example. It’s not as large or powerful as the AMA, but it’s good to know there are MDs fighting for a national system too. This particular organization proposes an expanded version of Medicare for all Americans.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA):
The biggest reason that the pharmaceutical industry would oppose a national insurance program would be the ability of a single insurance entity to negotiate cheaper drug costs. We have seen this fear played out with Medicare, and it will no doubt affect the industry’s support of a national health plan. There is also a fear of stricter government regulation over the industry.

The industry is sensitive to negative publicity however, and has recently increased its charity provisions in a few ways. First, drug companies have agreed to offer discounts to people with a Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage during the infamous Donut Hole, when beneficiaries must cover the full cost of their drugs. Second, Pfizer just started a program providing drug assistance for the newly unemployed.

Now, these programs are all well and good, but wouldn’t they be irrelevant if people had affordable access to prescriptions on a regular basis? Wouldn’t that save the companies money?

The Insurance Industry:
This is a no-brainer. The creation of a national health insurance program would hurt the private insurance industry. Why would the industry then support a public program? But, come on, it’s obvious to see the current state of health care is not working. Even those with health insurance coverage are filing for bankruptcy.

WARNING: The following is a rant about the stupidity of some people.

We’ve been hearing the argument that a government-run national health insurance program would be too bureaucratic; telling people what doctors they could see and making them jump through hoops to get coverage. Really?!?!?!?! REALLY? This is about the most hypocritical argument I’ve ever heard. Are these people really trying to suggest that people don’t face any of this crap with private insurance? Because I bet that argument would be washed away simply by talking to people who have private insurance, and especially if they have any kind of chronic illness! Anyone who believes this is fully delusional.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. If you want to learn more about health care reform or just keep up with health reform news, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation website. They even have a side-by-side comparison of health care reform proposals.


BlueDuck said...

Hi... it's Jeremy.

It's clear that our biggest enemy right now is not the GOP or the AMA or any of the usual groups (because their opposition was expected and we have a big enough majority to, in theory, ignore them)... it's Senate Democrats and, to a much lesser extent, the Obama administration itself.

A handful of Senate Democrats are working very hard to sabotage this bill, and want to instead pass a compromise bill (health-care "co-ops" and subsidies and crap like that will do nothing to reform or change the system) so they can have the appearance of having done something.

And the Obama administration, I am afraid to say, has an Achilles Heel of not wanting to be 'partisan' (eek) or offend any particular group or interest, and thus always leans towards compromise rather than fighting for what they may actually want. So if the Senate comes out with a BS, compromised bill... will Team Obama threaten a veto or demand a stronger bill? Likely not.

For those who care about real health-care reform, it's time to STOP bitching about the AMA or Republicans or debating the issue with your crazy conservative uncle. Instead, call up your Democratic senators (and the White House) and say the following... "Public Option. Or NOTHING." Thank you.

The sooner Democrats/liberals realize their biggest enemy is their own party, the sooner we can hold them accountable and may get something done.

The Road Less Traveled said...

I definitely agree with you about the Democrats needing to grow a backbone here. But really, we cannot overlook the influence of the AMA or other entities that are rigidly trying to privatize every bit of American health care. Who do you think the Democrats (and Republicans) are placating?

When we are looking at health care reform, the power and influence of these entities over our elected officials is something we need to seriously consider.