Now that the stimulus package has passed Congress and awaits the President’s signature, the debate has started in earnest about the how to address health care reform. I think most reasonable people agree that our current system falls short on three major tests: access, quality, and cost. Where reasonable people disagree is in how to solve for these shortfalls.
One side argues that the United States should abandon the existing employer-based system for a government-run, single payer system. This is no doubt a very costly approach and one of which most Americans will not approve.
On the other side, there is a call to allow free-market approaches to work to solve the problems in healthcare. Let’s face it, the free market has now had over 50 years to work this out, and we still have problems with access, quality, and cost.
Today, there are 47 million American who do not have health care coverage. Yes, many choose not to be covered. So, let’s agree that the real crisis is not the uninsured, but the uninsurable. These include those who have pre-existing health conditions and who cannot buy health insurance at any price, unless they work for an employer who offers coverage. Many more are disabled, work for employers who do not offer coverage, are among the growing ranks of the unemployed, or simply cannot afford coverage.
I am potentially one of these. As a cancer survivor, and a person over 50 who is otherwise in great shape, I am dependent on staying employed by an employer that offers me affordable heath insurance, and fortunately I am. Still, I am limited in my options and my family is at risk. Early retirement is not an option, starting my own business is not an option, and if I were to lose my job, my wife, children, and I would be left no health insurance. It can a very fast slide into desperation for many who thought they were solidly in the middle class.
So, let’s have the debate begin. How do we improve healthcare access, quality, and affordability? But, if you are going to engage in the debate, let’s agree on one basic idea:
Universal Healthcare is not a bad word. It does not automatically mean “socialized medicine” or government-run, single payer system.