Besides the War in Iraq, one of the most talked about issues that will confront us head-on come primary season will be healthcare and what we can do to provide it cheaply, efficiently, safely, and to as many people as possible. Every single candidate running for President of the United States will need to embrace healthcare reform that includes some version of universal coverage. Hillary tried to push for that back in 1994 during Bill’s tenure and it fell flat on its face. Part of the reason for that was that there was not enough buy-in from healthcare providers, the business community, and insurance companies. Well, now we’re beginning to see some companies push for change. On top of that, we have several prominent politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties rallying around this important issue. Unfortunately, they don’t see eye-to-eye on how to resolve this growing crisis.
Take President Bush’s plan for instance. In his plan, he wants to reform the tax code to give many citizens a standard $15,000 deduction for health insurance. While this will ultimately provide a cost savings to many Americans, it will be detrimental to many others by causing them to claim premium employer-paid benefits as income. His plan does not address the root of the problem though. Part of the problem exists because healthcare providers have inflated their costs to consumers in order to turn a profit. In my opinion, quality healthcare should be a right, not just a privelege. When large healthcare conglomerates start to run their business like, well a business that is out to increase profits, then ultimately it’s the patients that suffer. They may get premium level care, but at a premium level price as well. The statistics for the uninsured in this country are just staggering. Another part of the problem is the health insurance industry. Many employer-paid plans have been changed recently to help the company itself lower costs incurred by rising insurance rates. My company, which shall remain nameless to protect my privacy, recently changed our health plan by forcing those of us with spouses who work to drop our spouse from our plan or pay a penalty to keep them covered if they are eligible for coverage through their employer. This idea does nothing to help lower employee-paid costs but rather it just shifts the burden to other employers. It also does nothing to address the high costs of health insurance.
I have not reviewed each of the candidates’ stances on universal healthcare so I really can’t comment on that. I don’t even claim to have a cure-all answer to solving the healthcare problem. However, I know that I would be willing to pay higher taxes (sales, income, gas, etc.) in order to help fund universal coverage for everyone. Healthcare for everyone is not just a pipe dream. I believe it can be accomplished through discussion, debate, and smart planning by our elected officials, the insurance industry, the healthcare community, and us as citizens. We all have an obligation to “the least of these” to take care of them. Like the old axiom that a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so is our country and community only as strong as its weakest citizens.
I’m interested in hearing your comments and criticisms concerning the healthcare crisis going on in this country and what we can possibly do to alleviate the problem. Some of you (both commenters and occasional readers) will undoubtedly have more experience than I do when it comes to this important issue. I want to hear from you, so please leave a comment. Thanks in advance.