Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Universal health care versus universal insurance

It appears that, once again, politicians have caved in to special interests and gotten their highly touted version of reform all wrong. Rather than tossing the greedy insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists out on their respective deaf ears, Washington has creatively developed a new program that will line the pockets of the health care industry even more. The number of uninsured would be reduced, certainly, but will we be any better off? Not even remotely. An insurance policy does nothing to guarantee proper health care.

Any meaningful reform of the misshapen health care system in our country must begin with breaking the stranglehold of insurance companies which stand between patients and doctors. No bureaucrat in a distant office building should be able to determine what treatment plan is right for my health needs; that is my decision to make, with the unfettered advice of a doctor of my choosing.

Insurance companies then must be replaced by a single payer system that covers medical attention, not paper shuffling. The idea that forcing every citizen to carry health insurance will improve the health care of us all is a misnomer, at best, and a shameless scam on its face. My family and I have had employer-subsidized insurance for years, but the premiums and co-pays are prohibitively high enough to keep us from accessing the care we need. And each time we change employment, or an employer looks to save money on premiums, we switch insurance companies and go through the all-too-familiar paperwork ritual which, while I am certain it provides jobs for the clerical staffs, does nothing to improve our health care.

And it goes against the grain to be forced to buy health insurance, not only because it enriches the already rich industry with no visible benefit to the consumer, but because I am an adult, an individual who is responsible for my own life. My husband and I take no prescription drugs and rarely visit a doctor, yet we pay over $500 each month for employer-subsidized health insurance – rather steep for the occasional dental visit and bi-annual eyeglasses. I can’t keep up with what his employer chips in since it changes every year as they jockey to keep costs down while the insurance companies reap ever-greater profits.

I have no problem sharing the economic burden of a universal health care system, a la Medicare, if every resident is guaranteed basic coverage no matter their employment status. Tummy tucks, nose jobs and sex changes, and treatment for self-imposed illness and injury from poor lifestyle choices, should be electives, available only to those with the ego and dollars to afford them. I understand the arguments connecting poverty and poor eating habits, but in a society where information overload is the norm, no longer can anyone rely on the excuse that they didn’t know eating McDonald’s daily is not a good idea. As individuals, we must become more responsible for our own physical and mental condition so the system can truly become health care, not sickness care.

Yes, I voted for President Obama. He promised hope instead of more of the GOP terror, peace instead of senseless war. I am still holding my breath, waiting for the changes we so desperately need as a country. But as long as partisan politics continue to plague Washington and the nation, I doubt that change will become reality.