Health care reform? In your dreams

binoculars2So now the American Medical Association has come out against public health insurance. They were, if you’ll recall, one of the groups that rushed to sign a letter to Pres. Obama saying how supportive and helpful they planned to be during this latest effort to reduce America’s health care costs. And a public health insurance plan is a big part of Obama’s plan.

This whole health care puzzle is going to get more and more complicated as Congress and all the players who make a buck in the health care industry try to come up with a solution that makes everyone happy. That, of course, will never happen. So we’ll end up with some kind of compromise if we get anything at all. We may end up with gridlock. Or more likely we’ll end up with some half-assed, poorly considered, ineffectual, last-minute something-or-other bill that won’t improve the situation at all and may in fact make it worse, but will allow the lawmakers to brag about how they did indeed tackle the problem and, by George, did something about it!

The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, the system will remain screwed up, and we’ll stumble into the future pretty much as we would have anyway before all the posturing, protest, and palaver.

Maybe you haven’t followed the health care debate very closely or, like me, you try to follow it but keep getting confused by the terminology. The June 2009 AARP Bulletin ran a useful little glossary for those of us trying to to keep up with the discussion:

Universal health insurance: The goal of ensuring that every American has access to health coverage, regardless of the specific system used to achieve it

Group health insurance: The traditional system in which employers or unions offer subsidized private insurance to employees or members and their dependents at discounted group rates

Individual health insurance: Private policies purchased by individuals or families who do not have access to group insurance. Applicants may be denied coverage or have to pay more because of age, gender, or pre-existing medical conditions

Public health insurance: These include Medicare (for older or disabled people), Medicaid (for the poor), SCHIP (for children), the Veterans Affairs health system, and some state programs. Care is subsidized by federal or state governments or both

Single payer: A centralized system used by several Western nations in which the government pays for every resident’s health care as a basic social service, funded out of taxes

Socialized medicine: A single-payer system in which the government owns and runs health care facilities and pays salaries to doctors. (In the U.S., only the VA health care program would fit into this category.)

Methinks I’ve heard more than one reporter, commentator, and politician misuse these terms, either from ignorance or in a deliberate effort to obfuscate.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that you and I are just spectators. Sitting in the nosebleed seats behind the post up in Section ZZ. The pols with positions to defend, the lobbyists with clients and big bucks at stake, the service unions with their jobs to protect, are all up there in Washington playing football with our health and our medical care. There’s nobody there pounding on the table saying, “I speak for the patients!” We’re just helpless, silent victims of a health care system in which we have no say, a system that our dollars support and upon which our lives literally depend.


Related Pied Type posts:

Don’t computerize my doctor

We come bearing gifts

Medicare: it’s better than nothing

Obama trades gloom for ‘yes we can’

McCaughey off the mark on stimulus bill

3 thoughts on “Health care reform? In your dreams

  1. You’ve done a nice job framing this absolutely horrid state of affairs. We can only hope that Obama keeps up the pressure on this issue. It’s so deeply wrong now that it’s nearly impossible to imagine a way out. But let’s keep trying. Please!
    Oh I’m all for trying. I’ve just learned not to get my hopes up. Especially when it comes to Congress accomplishing anything worthwhile.

  2. You really can tell a society by how it treats its weakest members, and to me, that means those who are sick and lack the strength and know-how to advocate for themselves. The current system is a national embarrassment, and personally, I would have no trouble at all coughing up more taxes if it meant that I will never, ever, EVER again have to navigate our system and deal with all the nonsense that you, personally, know I have been dealing with.

    I also firmly believe that anyone who gets up on a sopabox and talks about how evil a single-payer system would be has precious little first-hand experience with the current system for a major illness. It all changes when it happens to you or someone you love–and having millions of dollars of personal wealth won’t save you then.
    It all boils down to money. Doesn’t it always? Nobody in Washington is going to agree to anything that reduces their profits. That’s why they’re all there now; they’re looking out for their interests, not the patient’s. The lawmakers supposedly speak for the people, but you can bet the lobbyists pay them a lot more than we the people. And besides, they already have more money, insurance, and health care access than they can use in their lifetimes.

    I wonder when any of them last struggled to ferret out a primary care physician they liked and trusted fully (and who was still taking new patients). Or took a family member to a hospital emergency room because they didn’t know or couldn’t get in to see a doctor. Or worried where or even if they could buy health insurance. When was the last time one of them worried not about losing a job but about losing the health insurance that went with it?

    I have no confidence that they appreciate the problems down here at street level. I have no confidence that they’ll fix anything. On a personal level, of course, I’m stuck on Medicare and just pray they don’t break it. It’s not that great as it is, but it’s all I’ve got.

... and that's my two cents