Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healthcare Reform debate ramps up amid charges of “Socialized Medicine”

The Healthcare Debate has been percolating since President Obama was elected. Now the fight to change our national healthcare system has begun. It is clear to everyone, without sounding repetitive or cliché, the system is broken and doing nothing is not an option. The goal of having quality, affordable healthcare for everyone is going to be a very tough fight.

The devil is in the details and the detail that the President has put out there is how much this thing is going to cost Americans. $1 trillion over 10 years. Senator Ted Kennedy’s version is estimated to be over $1 trillion and Senator Max Baucus’ plan is estimated to be around $1.7 trillion over 10 years. All of these versions have a public plan option as part of the package, allowing citizens a choice of staying with or purchasing private health insurance or a public option.

Recent healthcare reform plans put forward by the Republicans suggest a co-op exchange system that looks interesting, but no direct government competition with private insurers. Several of the proposed plans the Republicans have put forth would require people to purchase private health insurance. (No option or choice) The bottom line, someone is going to lose and lose big. Will corporate health insurers take the hit or will the 47 million uninsured Americans, projected estimates rising to 51 million Americans, be the victims again of healthcare reform that favors corporations? As a reference, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a side-by-side comparison of all the current Healthcare Reform proposals.

Republicans, beholden to corporate health insurance, continue to parrot the commercials and talking point of groups like Conservatives for Patients Rights. They want healthcare reform that is based on “the four pillars of Patient’s Rights,” which are choice, competition, accountability, and personal responsibility. This sound perfectly fine and acceptable, but what do they really mean by competition, accountability, and personal responsibility? Rick Scott, founder of Columbia Hospital Corporation and Solantic Corporation, is the face and the driving force behind Conservatives for Patient’s Rights. While admirable and a compelling life story of perseverance, drive, and ambition, there is nothing in his materials that takes private health insurers out of the decision making tree between the patient and doctor.

The fight for Healthcare Reform comes down to private insurers continuing to exert their influence or the Federal Government expanding its roll. I for one don’t like anyone having a say as to what treatment will or will not be accepted or covered. My doctor and I have to make that decision, not a government bureaucracy or some corporate stooge crunching numbers behind a desk. In my opinion, one thing that is certainly unacceptable are private insurance companies denying treatment to people based on “pre-existing conditions.”

There are lots of supporters for a Single-Payer style of health insurance, but the majority of the public is wary of anything that looks like government controlled healthcare that gives them no choices of doctors or treatment, which is a misconception. The proposal that President Obama and many Democrats are pushing isn’t necessarily universal healthcare, but would make health insurance more affordable with the public plan option and would not deny treatment because of a pre-existing condition. Again, the Republicans are offering their versions, none of which (that I have read or come across) takes private health insurers out of the decision making tree or addresses the issue of denying treatment due to pre-existing conditions. At this point, the Democrats can’t agree on a plan and Republicans continue to scream “socialized medicine” while offering warmed over and recycled private health insurance proposals that don’t address the skyrocketing costs or expanding coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions.

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