Vail Daily guest column: Sen. Gardner must explain stance on health care |

Vail Daily guest column: Sen. Gardner must explain stance on health care

We all look to you for leadership on key issues such as health care. On your website you say: “… all Americans deserve access to quality and affordable health care.” What exactly does that mean? Does “access” mean that a person without health insurance or money will be able to go to the doctor and be treated in any town in any state? What does “quality” mean and what does “affordable” mean? Tens of millions of Americans would find massive quality in minimal health care simply because under current GOP plans they would have nothing. Affordable to whom, the treasury or the patients or both?

It is frankly rather depressing that you quickly turn negative and start blaming the Affordable Care Act. You must realize that there are systemic problems that predate the act which, although far from ideal, has many features that we should not be losing for purely party political reasons. You say that the act needs repealing but, after eight years of negativity, you and your GOP colleagues have no clear idea of what to replace it with. What does “patient-centered solutions which empower Americans and their doctors” mean to the average person? Will all Americans have ready access to quality primary care?

You flag up cost as the most fundamental health care problem we face. Surely cost is just a symptom of an inefficient and ineffective system that produces poorer results for the vast majority of our citizens than are found in any other major western nation? You say that “sky-high costs are hurting families” and yet you make no mention of the hurt that millions of families face on a daily basis due to the effective absence of proactive, preventative health care coverage for them.

The health care challenges we face as a nation do not begin with costs, they end with costs. We could easily achieve your number-one goal and reduce burgeoning costs by removing treatment, procedures, drugs and medical devices for large numbers of people. Yes, I know, that sounds very much like the current GOP Senate plan. Health care would be cheaper, but for many people there would be no true health care and cost effectiveness would sink. It is ironic that you and your GOP colleagues propose treating the symptoms of a complex and inefficient system in a way that will simply serve to prolong a medical system that often deals with health care symptoms rather than causes because that is the most profitable option for the medical facilities, the drug companies and medical device manufacturers. Has that helped fuel the growing opioid addiction crisis?

I wonder whether you seek to improve infant mortality and life expectancy in the U.S., both of which are not as good as in other Western nations. I wonder whether you seek to reduce prescription drug costs, opioid addiction rates, insurance costs for medical professionals and institutions, the costs of certain medical devices, all of which are far higher than in any other Western nation? I wonder whether you associate mental health spending with the high rates of incarceration and the high associated costs? I wonder whether you seek a health care system that works across state lines for everyone? You mention none of these, perhaps because you are unaware of them, or perhaps because you find them too hard to address, simply do not care enough or are not brave enough to take a position.

You say, “Congress will need to work collaboratively with health care professionals, researchers, insurance providers and device manufacturers.” Why are insurance providers and device manufacturers on that list? They have a vested interest in maintaining the very inefficiencies we currently have, and that lead to the burgeoning health care costs you are wishing to reduce. Including them means you are admitting to a total absence of vision and leadership, and the same seemingly goes for the majority of your GOP colleagues.

Surely you must know how awful the workers compensation system is? Surely you must realize that linking health care to employment is a massive burden on business owners and also acts as a brake on movement of labor? Surely you must realize that having a separate government agency, the Veterans Administration, dealing with veterans issues, including health care, is massively inefficient and allows the Department of Defense to plan for war and prosecute wars without ever having the responsibility for the consequences of armed conflict? Surely you must think it crazy that we have a separate armed forces health system in the U.S.? You want to get rid of Medicaid and yet you and your GOP colleagues seem content to simply pick at that program, totally blind to the cost benefit of a Medicare-for-all which would enable us to get rid of Medicaid, the separate military health care system in the U.S., Veterans Health Administration health care, workers compensation and having jobs linked with health care. Imagine the savings of doing all that? You can do it; simply be brave and lead with vision.

Nicholas T. Fickling is a retired Colonel.