Recent health care events are so contentious that it makes me wonder how far down toward first principles we’d have to go to find common ground. Could we maybe agree on what the chief problems in the US health care system are? Let’s try. I’ll go first.
1. Fifty million uninsured. That’s 16%, or 1 in 6 Americans, with no health insurance. It’s estimated that 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of being uninsured.
2. Private health insurance industry abuses and inadequacies. This includes dropping your coverage when you become ill. It includes the practice of not covering “preexisting conditions.” It includes charging women more than men. It includes the practice of denying random legitimate claims knowing that a certain percentage of the denials will not be challenged. It includes the practice of imposing annual and lifetime caps on policies. It includes incentivizing in-network physicians not to treat patients. It includes the practice of using over 20% of our premiums for overhead, executive bonuses and advertising instead of for actual care.
3. Cost. And by this I mean something very specific. The price tag on items like doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospital stays and medical equipment is just too high. Higher than anywhere else in the world. It isn’t that we use more of these things, it’s that they cost too much.
I could list many more issues, but I think these are the big ones. Any reform that significantly improved these issues would be terrific, am I right? If it insured the presently uninsured, curbed industry abuses and brought down costs wouldn’t that be a pretty decent piece of reform?
I’m sure that there are people who think–somehow–that I am wrong about this. So fire away. I’m hoping for lots of interesting comments.