Vail Daily letter: Health system’s sick, needs change |

Vail Daily letter: Health system’s sick, needs change

Jim Cameron
Vail, CO, Colorado

Beam me up, Scotty. There is no intelligent life down here.

Consider this: The United States is the only democratic, industrialized country in the world that does not have universal health care. The United States is the only country, as defined above, that relies on a for-profit industry to insure health-care coverage to a major portion of its population. The United States is the only industrialized country that ties health-care coverage to employment benefits for a majority of its citizens.

And the United States is the wealthiest country in the world on a per capita basis (excepting some small, oil rich sultanates), expends more per capita on health care than the 50 largest industrialized countries, and yet bumps along the bottom in measures like life expectancy, infant mortality rates and other morbidity and mortality statistics that generally measure the accessibility and quality of health care to a population.

Perhaps not all is lost, but the odds of anything of value coming out of the current health care reform debate are dwindling. The Obama administration started its reform campaign on the wrong compass heading – namely perpetuating the relationship between employment and health insurance.

Employers have been reducing their share of premium contribution, cutting benefits offered and outright eliminating health insurance as a benefit for several decades. And yet the Obama administration has tied the most important reform legislation in a lifetime to this tired, outdated and unwanted model.

Continued reliance on the employer-health benefit model has led to a series of contentious debates over taxation methods to fund expanding benefits to the uninsured and under-insured: (1) taxing employees on employer contributions for health insurance premiums; (2) taxing employers above a certain minimal employment size at a rate of 8 percent of wages if a specified level of health insurance is not offered as a benefit; (3) taxing health benefit packages above a specified premium level (aka, cadillac plans), etc.

Other cockeyed taxing proposals have included taxes on soft drinks, liquor, tobacco and other itemized consumptions. These are the kind of government taxation policies that have created a tax code that no one can understand. Wasn’t simplifying the tax code an objective of this administration like many before it?

We already have a progressive income tax code. Should this not be the mechanism for matching our federal priorities with our willingness to be taxed to certain levels? My economic training says that surpluses are experienced during times of economic expansion and deficits are required to pull the United States out of recessions. The bridging principle is that we stay balanced over the long term. This was the classical view of conservatism.

Another wrong heading on the health-care reform compass was leaving the states in their current status of regulating health insurance in their states. I’m sorry, but health-care coverage should not be a states rights issue! Why should someone in Mobile, Ala., be entitled to more or less health-care coverage than someone in Saginaw, Mich.?

Eliminating conflicting health care regulations across 50 states and installing national standards would help quality, help equalize practice patterns among providers and cost profiles among states, and eliminate private sector costs of dealing with 50 different state regulation requirements.

The health insurance industry has signaled the Obama administration that it is ready to abolish pre-existing conditions as a means to deny insurance or to base premium rates on such conditions. In return, the health insurance industry wants mandatory coverage for all citizens. This is a fair compromise. This would constitute a return to “community rating,” which was a requirement in the original HMO Act of 1973.

For those of you who argue that the private, for-profit insurance business is the appropriate sector to contain health care costs in the future and simultaneously improve quality of care (under the banner of free market capitalism), I ask what specific actions will the for profit insurance industry undertake to contain costs and improve quality in the future that it was unable to do over the last three decades?

The latest official GOP proposal would create grants to the 50 states to fund care for those with serious pre-existing conditions. You remember Michael Moore’s pre-existing condition list, don’t you? In his last movie, the list was scrolling into infinite space like credits in a “Star Wars” movie.

So the private, for-profit insurance industry would insure the younger and healthier among us, and we the taxpayers would pick up the tab for the sick. Ain’t that sweet!

Not only would we taxpayers absorb the highest health risks in our population, we would have 50 different state definitions of eligibility, benefits, approved providers, etc. This qualifies as a PG13 horror film. As for the for-profit health insurance industry? Well, there problem would be solved. Bring on the profits. Risk has been outsourced!!

My grandfather often told me, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” To Mr. and Mrs. Average American Couple, don’t be misled by all the misinformation that is being distributed through mailers, print media, television ads, e-mail messages, radio talk shows, etc.

If you have had to utilize your health insurance benefits lately, you may have come away with the impression that your insurer’s interest in your health is focused on your medical claim experience.

Jim Cameron


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