Thursday, June 18, 2009
Majority Trust Obama To Solve Health Care Crisis
Nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance, and another 25 million are underinsured. Total health care spending in the United States averages $6,714 per person. Compare that to the United Kingdom, where the cost is $2,760 per person, or France, where the total is $3,449 per person. And if you think we're getting better health care, you're wrong. The United States ranks 50th in life expectancy, and 44th in infant mortality rates, according to most reports. So what exactly does President Obama plan to do? A major point of his plan is to create a government-sponsored health insurance program that would be available to all Americans, much like Medicare is now offered to Americans over age 65. He wants everyone to be able to get insurance at a reasonable rate, even if they have pre-existing conditions. Employers are able to get cheaper rates than individuals because they pool their employees together, therefore the cost is spread around, and people with pre-existing conditions are included. But more and more employers have stopped offering insurance to employees because of the high cost, and more people are being laid off and left to their own resources. How does the president plan to pay for his plan? He wants incentives for people to use preventive services and wellness plans. The best way to keep costs down is to not get sick in the first place. Obama wants doctors, hospitals, and patients across the country to make prevention the top priority, as opposed to curing illness with pills, tests and procedures. He has already identified "hundreds of billions of dollars" worth of savings in the federal budget that could help finance health care reform. Much of his attention is being paid to root out waste and fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and he wants to reduce tax deductions for high-income individuals. In addition, he wants to standardize and computerize medical records, which will save millions of dollars in the long run, but will cost individual doctors up to $36,000 per physician, which includes the costs of servers, computers and software. Obviously, many doctors and the American Medical Association are against a universal electronic medical record system, even though it will save money in the long-run, but can prevent mistakes and keep patients from taking unnecessary medications or duplicate medications. Republicans are against a government-sponsored health insurance program for all Americans. They are afraid that employers would opt for the government option, which would be less expensive, but they say it would also be lower in quality. Both Obama and Senate Minority Leader John Boehner, who speaks for Republicans, agree that no insurance plan should deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Neither side, however, has explained how insurance companies would be forced to insure people with pre-existing conditions. That's what makes the issue of health-care reform so complicated. Until we get answers to questions like this, we shouldn't be blamed for skepticism. Most people believe that Obama, who is known for his intellect, is listening to his advisers and medical experts, and has options that he's weighing. The American Medical Association said that while it believes in health-care reform, it "does not believe that creating a public health insurance option is the best way to expand health insurance coverage." Other medical groups, however, support Obama's plan. The National Physicians Alliance, the American Academy of Family Physicians and other groups this week put out a statement of support: "Having the choice of a public health insurance plan will help make health care more affordable for patients, foster greater competition in the insurance market and guarantee that quality, affordable coverage will be there for our patients no matter what happens," they jointly wrote in a statement. While the AMA won't budge, and individual doctors are still balking at the high cost of things such as universal electronic medical records, the support of these groups is encouraging. Pretty much everyone, including the AMA and the Republican party, agrees that reform is needed in the health-care system. A new Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans trust President Obama to make the right decisions. Let's hope they're right.