It seems that everyone in America continues to be in an uproar about The Affordable Care Act or as it is derogatorily known, ObamaCare. Especially, now that the Republicans control Congress, there will surely be an attempt to overturn it once again, and if not repeal it, at least modify it as drastically as possible. I, personally, do not care for much of the healthcare law myself—as far as being affordable, it is a disaster. The free preventative care visits and the mandate against exclusion for pre-existing conditions has undeniably been the most beneficial aspect of this healthcare act, but overall, it does very little in addressing the problems of medical care today. We are in dire need of healthcare reform, and I believe that means instituting a single-payer national system and regulating healthcare costs.
Socialism, you cry? No more than free K-12 public education, which we are all, parents of school-age children or not, required to pay for through our tax dollars.
Yes, yes, I know, the government has made a shambles of the education system. Won’t they do the same to the healthcare industry? Yes, probably, if they are allowed to make the rules. Just like teachers should govern education, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals should govern healthcare.
But first, let’s discuss the absolute necessity of having affordable healthcare. Of course, there are the homeless, jobless, and the working poor who frequent emergency rooms. Let’s get real for a moment. If a homeless man gets hit by a car and taken to the emergency room, he’s probably going to get treatment. The costs are then absorbed by the system, which passes it on to us in higher cost healthcare as well as draining an already in-debt Medicaid/Medicare system. We pay for it anyway. The whole idea behind everyone having coverage is that at least most people will be paying something of their share, and if they have access to preventative care, there will be less high-priced emergency room visits, saving money and lives in the long run.
The problem is that we can’t force people who cannot even pay their rent to buy expensive medical insurance, and the tax credit is a joke. How does that do them any good now?
But it’s not just the poor who have to worry. I know a woman who has worked her entire life in a professional but middle-income job. She has never been irresponsible with her money. She has a small savings and her house is more than half paid off. She drives an old car. She planned on retiring soon, and has put in more than enough years to do that, but after attending a retirement benefits meeting and looking into buying her own private health insurance, she now has to work years longer, just to get to the age to go on Medicare because she can’t afford to quit or be without insurance. The astronomical costs of healthcare are causing middle-income Americans to work until they die of old age. Is that what we really want?
The notion that a single-payer nationalized healthcare system means lower quality care is a myth if it is managed correctly. The idea that American healthcare is superior to any other first world country is also a myth. According to The Commonwealth Fund, America’s healthcare is nothing to brag about. They report that “given the absence of universal coverage—people in the U.S. go without needed health care because of cost more often than people do in the other countries. Americans were the most likely to say they had access problems related to cost” (Davis, et al).
They go on to say that the “U.S. ranks last overall with poor scores on all three indicators of healthy lives—mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60. The U.S. and U.K. had much higher death rates in 2007 from conditions amenable to medical care than some of the other countries, e.g., rates 25 percent to 50 percent higher than Australia and Sweden. Overall, France, Sweden, and Switzerland rank highest on healthy lives” (Davis, et al).
Their final conclusion was that the “U.S. ranks last of 11 nations overall. Findings in this report confirm many of those in the earlier four editions of Mirror, Mirror, with the U.S. still ranking last on indicators of efficiency, equity, and outcomes” (Davis, et al).
One major problem with our “premiere” healthcare system is the superfluous promotion of expensive preventative testing suggested at specific ages as if we were automobiles ready for our 75,000 mile flush. An example of this is the colonoscopy. How many times have we heard that we must have this test as soon as we turn fifty and every ten years thereafter? According to John McDougall, MD of the McDougall Newsletter, a medical research publication, colonoscopies are an extremely dangerous procedure that is not even very accurate in detecting cancer and does not warrant the risks. The most common result of a colonoscopy is that it detects polyps, the polyps are then removed, and this is also a dangerous and useless procedure because removing precancerous polyps can spread the very cancer they are trying to prevent. He goes on to say that cancerous polyps make their appearance most commonly in people over fifty-five, and then usually take twenty years to metastasize. Do the math. You will probably die of something else before that anyway. But the real problem with our preventative testing is that there is a much cheaper test done on stool samples that is much more effective in detecting cancer and poses no risk to the patient. But that wouldn’t be as profitable, would it? And don’t even get me started on the greedy and irresponsible pharmaceutical companies peddling drugs with side effects much more dangerous than the maladies they seek to treat.
Then we have the opposite extreme–greedy insurance companies who put saving money above patients’ needs by denying necessary, life-saving preventative testing because it costs too much–and the costs are exorbitant. I have a family member with a rare form of aggressive cancer who absolutely requires a PET scan. The insurance company denied it as unnecessary because it costs upwards of $7000, so a CT scan would have to suffice. Well, this form of cancer spreads through the body quickly, and the microscopic cells cannot be detected on a CT scan. The scan could come back normal, and the doctor would have no idea where it spread until it grew into another tumor that the CT scan could see. Scientific progress is available, but even with insurance, we are denied it. But here, have a colonoscopy.
The other major problem with our healthcare system is blatant and obvious corruption in the industry in the form of Medicare fraud, millions of dollars each year paid for bogus claims and criminally inflated bills. This is another are where we need to focus our attention to lower healthcare costs.
An unintended consequence of this upheaval of the insurance industry has also been the shameful actions of employers, choosing to reduce full-time employees to part-time, choosing to stop covering employees altogether, or refusing coverage of family members, attempting to pass the costs on to their already underpaid and struggling-to-stay-in-the-middle-class workers while unethical insurance companies and medical and pharmaceutical companies continue to roll in the profits. And for some unfathomable reason, people blame the honest attempts of healthcare reform for the greed and lack of compassion of the medical industry, insurance companies, and employers. Obviously, these companies don’t care, and this is why we must go to a single-payer, coverage for all model. And if you think this will lower our already terrible quality of care, you need to do some more research on countries that have this model that score much higher than the United States in quality and effectiveness of care.
Regardless of how we choose to deal with it, health care must be reformed if we are to have any kind of quality of life or security in our old age. Instead of coming up with half-measures like The Affordable Care Act or dumping healthcare reform altogether, we need to apply ourselves to finding a realistic solution that does not cower before the dictates of the greedy for-profit corporate healthcare raiders. Our very way of life is threatened in a way that is more tangible than any terrorist threat to which we are so willing to forever indebt ourselves. Let’s drop the partisan B.S. and embrace the necessity of the situation. A professionally run single-payer healthcare system won’t make us any more Socialist than the public school system did.—Christina Knowles
Davis, K. Stremikis, C. Schoen, and D. Squires, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, The Commonwealth Fund, June 2014.
McDougall, John, MD. “Colonoscopy: A Gold Standard to Refuse.” McDougall Newsletter: August 2010. Web. 7 Nov. 2014 https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2010nl/aug/colon.htm