Posted in politics
March 22, 2010

Frankly, I’m confused.

Health Care Reform passed yesterday, and yet, I’m seeing so many people saying that this is the “death” of America and liberty. People who clearly have swallowed the Fox News Flavor Aid. (I have nothing against a conservative news channel- however, Fox News doesn’t offer news. They offer spin, hype and lots of sound bytes… most of which turn out to be inaccurate)

The United States is the only major nation that allowed health care to be a corporation just like any corporation. Most of the European countries offer an inexpensive public option, but affordable private options as well. They recognize that health care isn’t a business- that it’s a necessity for individuals, just like having power and water for their homes.

I’ve seen plenty of arguments why we should allow health care to continue unregulated. A major one is that we’re a capitalist nation. True, but when you allow insurance companies to operate for maximum profits- they begin denying people coverage, or charge them rates they can’t afford. Which leads to people turning to programs like Medicaid or Medical that typically wouldn’t, and puts financial burden on the government. Or, they have to pay entirely out of pocket, and when they can’t afford to pay for the thousands of dollars a hospital visit can lead to, make the hospital wait and wait and wait. Which only causes the hospital to raise their own rates.

We regulate a fair amount of our finance world, and yet, nobody stepped in to stop people from using mortgages as something you could trade in the stock market. So banks were encouraged by firms to continue giving out loans, and people who normally thought houses were out of their grasps were given loans. When the loans shouldn’t have been issued. And what happened? The bottom fell out of our financial sector, the housing market has been destroyed after being inflated by all these bad loans.

Ah, but it’s still the individual’s fault. For getting a loan that they shouldn’t have been qualified for. All those people wanted was the American dream- a house that would be theirs, a place that nobody would be able to take away. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened.

Why do I mention the loan fiasco in a post on health care reform? Because 50 years ago, it’s something that never would have happened. We’d learned from the fall out of the stock market crash in 1929 that you can’t issue credit for everything- the economy needs to exists with some actual cash flowing. And yet, today, our drive to maximize profits and make “easy money” led to that situation. Which is precisely what’s happened to health care. Insurance went from being a way to make health care more affordable, to being a way to make health care more profitable.

I speak from experience. I worked for an oral surgeon for a little over a year, and saw how their fee structures were set up. They were a careful calculation based on operating costs, how much they thought insurance companies would pay and how much they thought they’d have to write off for patients who couldn’t afford it. (They were also Scientologists who wanted to maximize their own profit, but I still learned a lot about how insurance works- and how, ideally, a doctor’s office should work) Insurance companies that they were contracted with would negotiate how much they’d pay for a service- which typically meant how little they’d pay for it. It didn’t matter that they were supposed to cover 100% of an exam, which based on time and labor would cost X amount- they’d only want to pay half.

And I’m familiar with insurance from the other side of it. When I was still in college and my sister wasn’t yet 18, my dad found himself between jobs, doing contractor work. He decided to get his own insurance. For my mother, who has migraines, they wanted to raise the rates for her. For my little sister, who was diagnosed as having ADD, they wanted to raise the rates. And for little ol’ me, with my previous back injury and migraines? It was ridiculous. My dad wound up putting me on my college’s “health insurance” (which meant that I was covered for visits at the school clinic, which was only open during the week and by appointment only) because there was no other way he could afford to insure all of us.

I’m the one who keeps an eye on how much we’re charged, versus what the insurance pays. When we had each of our boys, I watched as thousands of dollars were billed to our insurance and held my breath that most of it would be covered.

So honestly, I’m confused as to why this has become a party issue. This isn’t about stopping free commerce. It’s about recognizing that health care isn’t a free commerce industry like a grocery store- that it’s a service that is a necessity, much like water and power industries, which are regulated.

It isn’t about creating a socialist country- it’s about catching up with the rest of the world. We used to be a superpower, yet our health care is as advanced as a third world country. Yes, we have hospitals, doctors and medicine- unlike most of the third world. But it’s just as expensive proportionally.

Honestly, the one reason that conservative politicians didn’t want health care reform is because a large portion of insurance companies (and drug companies) profits go for lobbying. There’s plenty of money that finds its way into campaigns, to back plans, that are all offered with the understanding that they don’t stop these companies from overcharging Americans.

Those career politicians who so bravely voted no for the American people? They didn’t do it for you. They did it for their pocketbook. You might claim that’s mighty American of them- defending their own lifestyle. But when they’re ignoring the plight of millions of Americans who can’t even go see a doctor because it’s too expensive, there’s something wrong.

Also: they’ve said that Health Care reform hurts doctors, when in fact- it should do the opposite. Once insurance companies start paying for fees, doctors won’t have to charge such high fees to make up for the people that they think won’t pay- they won’t have to pay collection agencies to chase after individuals, and so their rates will go down. They’ll be able to spend more time caring for people, instead of trying to squeeze in a couple extra patients just to try to collect another co-pay.

And, technology isn’t as expensive as we’ve been told. Japan leads us in cutting edge technology, and yet they say that MRIs and such have to be downright cheap for the hospital to provide. So they made it be cheap. What costs you upwards of $500 in the hospital (sometimes up to $2000), costs $160 in Japan. Same technology, same machine. But Japan says they won’t pay as much as we’ll pay for machines, and companies lower their prices. So clearly- there must be some sort of huge mark-up. Japan even says that they make up for the lower prices because they’ll use MRIs more than we will. Likely because it’s cheap, so people aren’t so worried about having to pay for it.

If health care reform hadn’t passed, if we’d done nothing, it would have gotten out of hand. And eventually, the regular working class would have watched their rates continue to go up and coverage to go down- until nobody could afford it. Hospitals would have continued to close, not because of a rising illegal immigrant problem- but because Dick and Jane couldn’t afford their bills as well. This isn’t liberal rhetoric. It’s fact. It’s what’s happening right now.

And thanks to health care reform- might possibly stop. Do I think that this will fix everything right away? No. But it will certainly stop the health care industry from going where it seemed to be going… which is a very good thing.

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