Health Care Reform

July 11, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

The U.S. Senate is reviewing the components of the much-required health care reform bill. Obviously, the free market profiteers represented by the Insurance industry, hospitals, healthcare providers, Pharmaceutical companies and the entire enterprise strongly lobbying against the public option involving federal health care. Simultaneously, a tentative agreement by the hospitals and health care providers to reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs by $155 billion over a decade has been subject to immense speculation.

The opposition minority along with the cynics and the skeptics are vigorously contesting the legislation on the pretext – ‘tax’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’, an all time favorite issue.

Since the national health care estimated to cost over trillion dollars, the debate premised on choice, costs, and quality in accordance with President Obama’s primary objective of this crucial legislation.

Therefore, it’s important to address the concerns and criticisms from the respective quarters in all three perspectives.

Choice or Option:

Evidently, the free market’s resistance via lobbyists against the federal health care confirms the unwillingness to compromise on disproportionate profits at national expense and dominance in the national health care desperately due for major overhaul, even though the opposition minority claims satisfaction with the existing system regardless of the exorbitant costs enforcing the ‘average’ millions to remain uninsured and underinsured.

Unequivocally the present health care is fabulous for the privileged few particularly the lawmakers, the corporate executives and the fortunate healthy population with health insurance in reserve for emergencies. Unfortunately, the same system is neither empathetic nor conducive for those with pre-existing illnesses or children in families with congenital medical conditions and millions simply unable to afford the ‘supposedly’ competitive state of the art health care as declared by the opposition.

The reasons offered by the opposition defending the special interests investing millions of dollars in legislative votes to oppose federal health care, do not correlate with the status quo.

Despite the misnomer that current system is inexpensive without federal health care option, the exclusively private sectors run industry unable to offer any affordable insurance for a sizable population urgently in need of health care.

The real explanation being the system superbly efficient at a premium price, cost effective although draining the national economy predominantly profit driven with an utter disregard for the ethics or economics ultimately hurting the core national base, the vulnerable majority.

It’s clear from the defiance to the public option comprising federal health care viewed as a threat to phenomenal profits by the free market saturating the system with higher costs, limited choice and substandard care through the selection and elimination process leading the other competitors to adapt to similar strategy for survival and success.

Such practices and policies have allowed the free market to override harsh realities experienced by the ailing and dying population deeply affected by the ominous system prioritizing profits over public health.

It’s no surprise that the lobbyists are enabling the selective legislators and the media with the ammunition to curb the federal health care option favoring the entire population wellness against the broken system.

Another form of public option with the co-operatives by non-profit private groups or state run system considered an alternative to the federal health care. Again, it’s not a viable course of action to compete effectively with the health care conglomerate specifically given the dismal fiscal crisis like in the state of California. Nevertheless, the irony in the firm stance against government program is intriguing with the acceptance of states’ operation while rejecting the federal management.

The federal health system foes are fostering ideas and strategies doomed to fail in an effort to prevail in the free market monopoly with some legislators seemingly complicit in the agenda not barring the conflict of interest revealed in the latest disturbing news reports against them.

In the ‘choice’ aspect, the legislators must execute the power granted by their constituents to stand for the people against special interests by enacting the federal health care in public option as an integral part of the health care legislation.

Costs or Funding:

Yet another contentious issue creating huge barriers between the people and the profit seekers supported by the partisans is the trillion dollar costs to fund the program. The self-funding proposal aimed at saving costs from the non-functional system replaced with efficient and innovative techniques along with costs reduction by health care industry should facilitate insurance for the uninsured through federal option.

Conventional wisdom and experience dictates that it’s not possible to derive the trillion dollars funding from savings alone without generating payments from accessible sources – as it is the case in the state or national deficit reduction. Hence, President Obama’s proposal to cap deductions on employee health benefits claimed by corporations is a reasonable approach to health care financing.

Further, costs distribution via nominal tax surcharge applied on avenues earning extraordinary income i.e. over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples, along with employer contribution through a fee or tax based on percentage of worker’s salary to aid health benefits should adequately solve the equation.

It’s necessary to underscore the surtax and employer contribution fee favoring the small business owners with huge savings in providing the necessary health benefits via federal health care to their labor force, a vital capital resource to survive in the competitive cash strapped economy. Something, the free market could have offered in the non-governmental environment instead stayed focused on exploiting the system with mega profits.

Of course, there is going to be outcry with political humor like – nation socialized with ‘Robin Hood’ motto, President Obama please spare us with your “Change” theme as we might all end up asking one another to spare a ‘change’ in the revolutionary health care reform.

Humor apart, the seriousness lies in the lack of robust competition to keep the costs down and provide quality care. Another opposition’s grievance against federal participation deserves attention i.e. legislators perpetually scornful towards anything to do with their own organization viz. government sponsored projects, programs and services, reaction strangely implying self-deprecation of the political power representing the people.

Interestingly though, such entities are surely elected by their constituents i.e. people in a democracy but they swear allegiance to the Corporations funneling money into their campaigns and beyond.

It’s technically a democracy electing officials to protect the interests of the free market triumphant in widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots aside from dragging the nation to insolvency as witnessed in the finance sector and automobile industry.

In the tax issue, the opposition argument targeted at equalization of tax code. What it means is while the corporations claim deductions from health care benefits to their employees, similar tax relief not extended to private individuals presumably forced to purchase health insurance under the impending plan.

Although, the presentation posed as advocating for the people, essentially it helps the Corporations selling insurance in the strictly private run industry by transferring the liability on to the government through tax credit and revolving back to the tax payer funded health insurance only benefiting the profit seeking corporations rather than the taxpayer themselves.

Clearly, there are many opportunities to provide for the long overdue national health care costs and tragically, the legislative matter politicized by the opponents in compliance with the special interests order.

Care/Quality and Quantity:

The major objection from the opposition is the apparent government rationing of the health care and subsequent effects on the quality citing examples such as the Canadian and the British National Health Care system allegedly dysfunctional because of the government engagement with emphasis on the prolonged waiting period having a direct toll on the patients diagnosed for certain medical conditions. In other words, the deterioration in quality linked to the neglect of preventive medicine proven cost effective than treatment care.

The opposition argument might be legitimate; however, it does not transcend reality.

In this context, the Insurance industry dominated free market authored the “pre-existing” illness code apart from emerging as the champion in discounting and dismissal of genuine medical conditions leading to numerous lawsuits and out-of-court settlements. Notably all of them attributed to negligence and excessive insurance company intervention as evidenced in the grueling and agonizing experiences shared by thousands of victims and health care providers through various outlets.

On several occasions, the pro-health care reformers confronted by the anti-reform movement demanding the name of an international system successfully meeting the national requirements in terms of choice, cost and care. In fact, among the many industrialized nations the Scandinavian country Sweden provides excellent national health care from preventive medicine to cure and the achievement made all possible primarily as the world’s highest taxpayers.

Other hypothesis includes the Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals escalating beyond the actual costs over the decade calculated on the number or quantity and not the quality. The private groups reflecting the opposition’s sentiments against the federal health care suggested ‘Pay for quality’ in the bill resembling the Obama plan pledged to promote prevention, treatment and cure.

Amidst agreements and fallouts, a common flaw detected in both groups i.e. the federal system consisting federal agencies for approval on minor to major patient care as a stopgap measure to curtail expenses from medical practices shielding itself against malpractice lawsuits and investment recovery on medical equipments through patient insurance. Any form of over-indulgence will drive the costs in this matter.

It’s best for both federal and private health care to remove bureaucracy and intrusion between patients and health care professionals with unnecessary pre-authorizations causing delay in diagnosis and cost increase. Electronic guidelines on standard medical procedures for common illnesses are an ideal cost reduction method.

Finally, as there are many other issues to address in the immediate future, the analysis with solutions in the health care topic concludes strongly recommending federal run health care as a public option competing on even keel with the private sector to accomplish the general mission – universal health coverage guaranteed to heal the frail economy and the suffering citizens.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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