So 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.
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