Arriving At Health Care Insurance Reform

image5192097xAt present, the merits of health care insurance reform are increasingly at the forefront of public tension. However, the problem with this debate is that there has never been a system to reform in the first place. The current structure of private insurance evolved from a vacuum created by the lack of ideas to share the developments of advancing medical technology which demonstrated the ability to increase life span and extend the opportunity to live a longer and healthier life.

The only group that has total accessibility to the best medical care is the wealthy since they have so much money they can pay for the high cost without effecting their economic lifestyle. For most, insurance is the only way to pay for medical costs and avoid debt, until the price for coverage itself becomes so expensive that its weight threatens a financial disaster even in countries that have universal access run by the government, since the cost of medical care is rising everywhere, just at a slower rate then in the United States.

Until the personal need for health care becomes acute, thinking about it is as appealing as writing a will or purchasing life insurance by focusing attention on a subject influenced by anxiety. Most people know they are mortal, but that doesn’t mean they want to be reminded of it. That’s why sickness and end-of-life issues are difficult and often subject to the influence of superstition, overwhelmed by considering the theories of the unknown revealed in religion and myth.

superstock_1614r-2645When illness brings the issue to the forefront, it is then revealed whether one’s existing insurance is sufficient to cover whatever medical situation may arise. In most instances, it’s not enough. If a public outcry is unleashed, private interests concerned with maintaining the status quo, a lucrative industry, debate that a single payer system run by the government can only lead to declining quality because it creates no incentive to encourage competition which they claim would lower the cost of medical care. This has always been the argument against a single payer system, although decades of the private sector approach have failed to result in controlling the cost of medical care. This is why reform is needed.

HMO’s are businesses and are accountable to their stockholders, existing as private co-operatives that maximize profits by excluding those with pre-existing conditions unless they can get coverage as a benefit of working for a large company that can negotiate a package for employees. If jobs are lost, so is medical coverage. For that reason, equating health insurance with employment needs to be reconsidered. Some people argue that this is a threat to free enterprise; others see it as a moral dilemma with cultural consequences.

Private insurers claim that they comply with all the regulations that exist although requirements placed on them vary widely from state to state, creating too many different markets to keep track of, a real problem when trying to develop uniform standards. Relying on them to monitor themselves is similar to what happened on Wall Street. These companies specialize in creating complicated forms and booklets with paragraphs that are difficult to comprehend without a knowledge of medical terminology or a familiarity with contracts.

Individual policies are so expensive for those who are already sick to intentionally discourage them from seeking insurance. They are forced to get treatment at the emergency room which drives up the price for medical care because Medicaid, a state run system, pays the cost by increasing taxes for everyone. Medicare, also a government program, is a problem as physicians, unhappy with the cost limitations imposed by the government, are increasingly refusing to take on Medicare patients just as the baby-boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, approach the age of 65, adding more stress to a system already close to collapse.

This is where we are now as President Obama tries to convince the public that in order to prevent another financial meltdown health care insurance must be reformed especially since medical technology is so interconnected with other aspects of the economy. However, whenever there is an increase in government intervention or regulation, the cry of Socialism fills the air.

Any agenda for reform has to include concrete plans focusing on prevention and an increase in primary care physicians who are trained as adept diagnosticians who know when it’s appropriate to refer to a specialist. Family care practitioners can deal with eighty percent of medical problems. Perhaps government financing medical students in exchange for practicing in primary care settings for several years after they graduate can be one part of the solution. But this would be a government program that costs money up front, and yet it is difficult to be precise about costs and savings when you’re talking about preventing something that hasn’t occurred yet .

The focus, in reported news stories, on the sensationalism of the disruptive elements occurring at the town hall meetings that took place in early August, littered with irate constituents demanding to know the exact cost rather than on the improvised clinic of Inglewood California just outside of Los Angeles, as thousands of people stood in line for days waiting for medical and dental care. According to the New York Times editorial of August 16th, “there is a vast palpable need for a change in the health care system, one that politicians opposed to reform insist is the world’s best.” This debate is less about health care reform than about reforming medical insurance.