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Archive for October, 2009

Why are we so afraid?

Posted by Free to Think on October 6, 2009

Why are Americans so fearful about nationalized healthcare? After all, Obama isn’t proposing to create a government monopoly.

It’s evident that the American people’s greatest fear is not the financial implications of Universal Health Care, but the loss of control. Many of us are still stinging from the HMOs of the ‘90’s. Policies such as withholding 10% or more of physicians’ fees until the end of the year, releasing it only to physicians who meet targets for limiting how many referrals to specialists or diagnostic tests their patients used, was the norm. This made it difficult for doctors to use their best judgment.

Despite inherent problems, according to a Fox News poll in July, 84% of Americans rate the quality of their current insurance as “excellent” or “good.” What will happen to your existing insurance if the current healthcare proposal is passed? It’s hard to find direct, concrete answers.  As written in section 161 of the current bill, if you don’t enroll in a “qualified” health plan and submit proof of enrollment to the federal government, you’ll be tracked down and fined, even if you and your employer have paid the entire cost of the plan you already have.

So what qualifies? For a health plan to count as “qualified,” it has to meet all the restrictions listed in the legislation, plus whatever criteria the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposes, criteria that won’t specified be until after the bill becomes law.  So how are we to know whether we’ll support the Secretary’s decisions? And how exactly does this help the uninsured, or help us lower what we pay for healthcare?, a web site that promotes natural health and living, believes that some of the provisions in the bill are good ideas, but sites many alarming terms in the bill that illustrate a loss of consumer autonomy. Just a few of the most disquieting details they point out:
• The proposed bill mandates audits of all employers that self-insure
• Unlike private insurers, there will be no appeals process when deciding treatments and benefits of patients
• All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided free services.
• Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
• The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer
• Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (example: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
• All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange, and participation in the Healthcare Exchange will be mandatory
• The government cannot be sued for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted.

Does that sound like government monopoly to you?

What are other dangers of universal healthcare?

The Congressional Budget Office states, “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.” There is no disputing that this program would be unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers lately. But it also creates frightening issues of government encroachment.

How concerned should we be about government intrusion in our lives? If the government is in charge of keeping us healthy and paying for it when we are not, where can this lead?

When government is responsible for your health, they suddenly have a stake in your lifestyle. After all, your personal habits cost them money. This is true of private insurance companies as well, but private companies don’t have the ability to pass laws that compel you how to live.

What about people who refuse to take care of themselves, who don’t get their mammograms, who are overweight, don’t exercise and or eat right? Is it fair that we pay for their daily dose of Lipitor, their heart surgery? If it’s evident that the government would save money by making dental check-ups, pap smears, and colonoscopies mandatory, why shouldn’t they? Hell, I don’t want to pay for some guy’s root canal because he hasn’t been to the dentist in 3 years. And wouldn’t it be smart to require restaurants to check patrons National Health Cards before serving them high cholesterol meals?

The rhetoric doesn’t answer many basic questions. What does the administration feel is the most equitable way for Americans to pay for their ‘free’ healthcare? One flat, per capita premium added to everyone’s taxes? Or should we charge more for one person’s healthcare because he makes more money than someone else? People choose different kinds of homeowners insurance and car insurance. Is everyone entitled to top-of-the-line healthcare? What if someone would like to opt to save money by choosing to see a clinic-based doctor, while others are willing to pay for the doctor of their choice?

Should I be entitled to a tax credit if I can prove that I eat well and jog every morning? One has to wonder what the Founding Fathers would think of getting embroiled in all of this.

Can we reach the uninsured by alternate means?

“Cross-national studies conducted by The Commonwealth Fund indicate that our failure to cover all Americans results in financial barriers that…prevent many U.S. adults from getting the care they need, compared with adults in other countries,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.

There is no disputing this. There may be as many as 14 million chronically uninsured Americans out there. Universal Heathcare has been presented as the “morally right” thing to do to help them.

But that takes a giant leap of logic. True, it’s moral to help others in need. Is it moral to do so by forcing people to by participating in a program that gives the government unprecedented power over their lives, threatens to take away their freedoms and cost them even more money?

Would a simpler, less intrusive solution be to expand financial healthcare assistance to the ‘working poor’ while tackling specific ways to expand choice and lower health care costs to the free market?

As Michael Tanner puts it, “Doctors know that if you don’t get the diagnosis correct, you are not going to prescribe the right treatment. The same is true with health care reform. In trying to expand coverage to those who need it, let’s make certain we understand the facts.”

According to the Institute of Medicine, the United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care. And we’re ranked on 37th in the World Health Organizations rankings! How can we be so backwards?

We’ll discuss that more next time.

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