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Health care for all?

Nick Fickling

The other day, I was chatting with a surgeon about health care. He told me the field of medicine is not what it was and that he was urging his children to choose a different profession.

He mentioned the usual things such as the high cost of litigation insurance, but surprised me with his main reason: The health care system is complicated; it’s not designed to benefit the patient or help the doctor be more efficient.

He explained that health care plans are complex, but important. As potential patients, we spend time weighing the pros and cons of monthly costs, deductibles and the benefits offered. It is like choosing car insurance, but medicine is even more complicated, and poor decisions can really come back to bite us. The consequence of getting it wrong can be far more damaging.

He pointed out that many people trumpet the idea of “personal responsibility” “the right of people to make choices and either benefit from them or suffer the consequences. He questioned the merit in having ordinary people, who really don’t have the knowledge, decide how much coverage is enough and which insurer or plan is best.

He questioned having a system with so many administrative middlemen. Health insurance middlemen are like tax lawyers: They are needed, but only because the system is so complicated and because health insurance ” like income tax ” exists. Mike Huckabee proposed doing away with income tax altogether. Imagine how much easier life would be and how much we would save in government expenditure if that came about. If insurance was similarly removed from health, then wouldn’t we all save money, time and angst? Imagine all those tax and health insurance experts, collectors and lawyers being released back into society to be more productive in other fields.

I also asked him about the matter of health care for illegal immigrants, adding it seems unfair that illegals, or those who choose not to contribute, gain benefit from a system we pay for. Surely refusing them health care makes absolute sense. Our taxes would be less and fewer illegals would want to enter the country if “free” health care were not drawing them here.

He pointed out that this line of reasoning is found wanting in practice, for we really have no idea who is or is not illegal in this country, and the idea of refusing health care to anyone runs totally counter to the Hippocratic oath. Is there going to be someone at the surgery or hospital who has the job of approving or denying health care, and how are they going to make their decision?

What to do about the unconscious man with no health insurance card? What of the illegal boy with a serious communicable disease which, if left untreated, could spread to many more people with far greater cost to the nation? Does a hospital turn away a young, pregnant teenage girl without health insurance? We are being strangled by red tape, and adding more layers or changing the color will not help.

This doctor’s insight ” and he mentioned other concerns ” made me realize we have a overly-complex system that urgently needs fixing. HMOs, drug companies, insurance providers, and others with their nose in the trough have an interest in keeping the present system as it is. With lobbying dollars and political contributions, they wield a great deal of power with lawmakers. We are talking about the very survival of the companies that profit from the current system, survival that might come at the expense of your health or that of someone you love.

In November, do not just vote for change, but for a fundamental change in the way the system of health provision in the U.S. is structured. We have been paying for inefficiency for too long.

Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. E-mail him at fickling@vail.net or editor@vailtrail.com.


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