Sunday, October 15, 2006

Healthcare for All

According to an Los Angeles Times article today (Spouses Should Team up on Health Coverage,1,7075565.column?coll=la-headlines-business) there are more options for health insurance plan coverage than ever before. But there's also an increasing number of companies who are penalizing workers who double up on coverage. "In the old days, if you both worked, spouses would be covered under both plans and you'd get 100% coverage. But in the last two years we've seen employers looking at whether the spouse has coverage under another plan. If they do, the company will charge more."

And that 'more' ends up being over $2,000 a year.

November is open enrollment at my hospital. I can choose from a smorgasbord of HMOs, PPOs, HSAs and other gibberish. I, as an educated nurse, need a consultant to help me choose the plan that will best cover me for the best price.

I chose an HMO that I have been satisfied with for the most part, but I have had problems. If I want to see my primary physician, I have to book about a month in advance. If I don't call early enough on the day I'm ill, I can't get in to see anyone. And when I needed to see a specialist, it was a 6 week wait.

I don't consider myself to be underinsured nor do I have serious medical problems. But clearly the medical system is not working well for me.

Then consider individuals who have some kind of chronic problem that debilitates them to such a degree that they can't work. No job, no insurance. No insurance, little healthcare. No healthcare, greater debilitation. Yet it is possible that with early intervention and proper care those individuals could regain health and vigor and once again become working members of society.

The way we set up healthcare coverage for these individuals is completely and woefully inadequate.

There is no magic rule that says that health insurance must be tied to your job. Employers don't have to be in the business of feeding insurance companies clients.

The better idea for all of us is to have a single-payer system with a single standard of care. Everybody is covered and everybody gets the same kind of care. Just like the system that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed away a few weeks ago. Just like the system that Congressman John Conyers of Michigan is proposing in Washington, DC, that essentially extends the benefits of Medicare to all.

Instead of losing billions of dollars into the various insurance companies that use up to 30% of the healthcare dollar in administrative costs, we'd be in the streamlined administration of Medicare that uses only 2-3%. That would free up plenty of money to ensure that every doctor and every hospital would be paid for every patient treated. No patient would have to chose between getting medical care and having a place to live or food to eat. Now that sounds to me like a 21st century way of doing things in the richest country in the world.

Medicare for All is not Socialized Medicine, or commie-pinko stuff. It's the socially responsible way to help businesses and citizens be healthy and stay healthy.


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