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Health Care Needs More January 27, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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I like the essence of Senator Obama’s health care ideas but I think we just need to go farther. Comparisons to the system in Canada and Great Britain are always made by conservatives but they ignore other countries that have more government involvement than we do, including single payer systems that work much better than those two countries. This of course includes the rest of Europe. But in the real world it is questionable whether even any of those variations would be politically achievable in the United States. So I tried to think of something else. If anyone stumbles across this blog opinions and input are something I’d love to read.

First, nothing beyond current regulations except for consumer protection legislation would be passed limiting private insurance companies. But they’re still going to have to adapt to the existence of a new type of insurance organization. This organization would have a closer relationship to the government than the Post Office, but like it not be an actual agency of the government. It would be a purely non-profit health care organization like no other.

Next, I think that all current existing government health providing programs should be consolidated into this new organization, with special needs getting their own division, such as Veterans Health. Does anyone really think that the states would mind seeing Medicaid become a purely federal program? States are hurt more in bad parts of the business cycle and also occasionally suffer from purely regional downturns. In addition you see things like Missouri, where Governor Blunt and the Republicans who control the state completely cut 100,000 people from Medicaid in the name of budgetary considerations but refused to restore the cuts even when state funds were more than adequate to do so. They have put forth a new plan which they consider a great new way to go. I’m not going to go into details here but I see a disaster looming on the horizon because it will probably cost more than they think and not do that good a job, resulting in the poor and disabled being even worse off when they refuse to fund it adequately. Frankly, the so-called laboratory of the states doesn’t really work that well fairly often. Medicare shouldn’t need any other considerations, though the current system of withholding from payroll checks should go away under this idea. Part of what is currently withheld for Medicare should go to Social Security with the rest just staying with individuals and employers.

All funding for this would not come from the government. People would be charged a sliding fee depending on their income. One of the first things that really needs to be done is establish a meaningful measurement of what it takes to live in this country that allows for regional variations. The current one doesn’t cut it. Only then can a reasonable fee schedule be established. These fees can be subsidized as an employment benefit, but no one would lose their coverage if they lost their job. In addition this organization would recognize that health is health, for the mind and all parts of the body. While much effort has been put into having existing insurance systems provide mental health benfits it has been only partially successful. Although most don’t realize it people have died from untreated dental health issues. Recent studies have even shown that bad dental health, such as untreated or poorly treated infections can affect heart health. In addition to fully function in our society and to be employable one needs good vision and dentistry. Try reading the small print on job applications without good vision or getting a decent job if your dental work isn’t halfway presentable. It sounds silly to some people but that’s the real world we live in.

The system should start with an extensive planning stage that would still try to take as little time as possible to complete. The current private insurance companies would not be involved in this planning but health care providers would. There needs to be an honest dialog minus the kind of political name calling (socialist, communist, etc.) about what works and what doesn’t in both public and private plans. The finances of this cannot be settled by putting the burden on doctors by constantly cutting compensation they receive. Having a system like this would mean that there would no longer be the number of uninsured we currently see which should help with the bizarre billing systems that we currently see where those who can pay wind up subsidizing the poor. That subsidization would be spread out to the nation, not just the people who are treated at that hospital.

This is of course a very basic skeleton plan that would have to be filled out a great deal but I’ve never seen any plan like it. Opinions?

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