Thursday, July 16, 2009

Common Sense: Health Care

Health care reform has been in the news a lot lately. In that time, the media's batted around all sorts of rarely explained terms as everyday facts of life. Strange terms like public, single-payer, and traditional policies, have left many wondering what the hell's happening in Washington.

At least one of these terms is roughly straightforward: traditional policies. These are the private policies already offered by insurance companies, sold to consumers either a) directly, or b) through their employers.

But what about public and single-payer policies?

Public health care policies refer to something similar to the Massachusetts state health care system, in that a state, or public, policy (or policies) is offered alongside the traditional, private policies. The basic idea is that the public policy will compete with the private policies, keeping health insurance costs down.

The single-payer policy doesn't refer to traditional US health care policy, like the term would suggest (a single consumer buys a single plan). Rather, this is a government run system, similar to that found in Canada or the UK, where everyone has the same health care plan paid for by the taxpayer (i.e. the government is the single-payer).

Now, there's a lot of debate going on in Congress about health care. Many say it's too expensive to take on right now. Others want health care reform, but don't want it to affect traditional providers. After all, the health care lobby exerts ENORMOUS influence in Congress, and nobody wants to kill his/her own political self by voting for anything that could possibly harm your largest campaign contributors.

Finally, some Republicans refuse to even consider health care reform simply because Obama wants to pass it so badly. One even referred to the issue as Obama's "Waterloo", implying that if the Republicans can stop Obama here, they'll break him.

Mere political grandstanding, if you ask me.

Though I'm no fan of the current Obama plan (and worry about what the final product will look like), I think it's a step in the right direction.

I just don't think his plan goes far enough.

There's no reason why this country shouldn't provide everyone with single-payer health care. Smaller countries with smaller GDPs provide their citizens with better, more widely accessible health care than the country with the largest GDP (the US is currently ranked 37th by the WHO, behind countries like France, the UK, and... gulp... Cuba and Morocco). With each passing year, hell, each passing month, health insurance gets more and more expensive in the US (my health plan leapt fifty percent in the passing year).

Let's face it. Health care is a booming, powerful industry in this country.

And that statement alone proves it's beyond time for serious reform.

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