This is being written as a bad-tempered debate rages in Congress on a bill to reform the healthcare service. Depending on who who listen to, this will either be the saving of millions of American lives or the start of an era where death panels of bureaucrats decide who gets to live and who dies. It is rare to find such extreme language of fear being used to debate what should be a reasonably dry subject. With almost 50 million adults in the US without a health plan and the hospital emergency room service buckling under the strain, we should be having a discussion about the morality of leaving so many people to die without help. And, before you all start complaining about unverified assertions, try googling the death rate among the uninsured and see just how many government-based reports there are of higher mortality among the poor and uninsured. There are myths and facts out there. Work out for yourself what the facts are.
Why should there be so much opposition to a measure to improve the quality of healthcare? The answer is easy to find. The corporations and professions with the most to lose in this reform have deep pockets and they are spending the money to manipulate public opinion with lies and deceptions. There can be no doubt the US system is broken. We have among the highest costs per head for treatments in the developed world and rank near the bottom for death rates. No-one should want to live in a country where we pay so much and so many people die through lack of proper care. Yet that is the current reality being defended by the Republican party. It would not be so bad if the Republicans had their own agenda for reform. But all they offer is opposition to the Democrats’ proposals. It is a negative to every proposal regardless of its merits.
Looking around the internet right now, it’s easy to see the promises of cheap health insurance, but these silvered words only prove partially true. For the middle and high income groups, there are affordable health plans out there. For the rest of the population, you find whatever you can afford and hope for the best. The small print in so many policies gives the insurers many different ways in which to refuse payment on claims or pay only a percentage of what you are expecting. Worse, companies are increasingly driving away people who have more expensive chronic diseases and disorders. Their profits are more important than the need to give fair access to medical treatments. It would be great if there were one or two ethical insurance companies out there, genuinely offering cheap health insurance with terms that offered reasonable cover to those with the misfortune to be injured or fall ill. But the promises of ethics are lost in a world driven by capitalism. The free market means maximizing profits at the expense of the customers. It’s hard to predict whether this latest attempt to reform healthcare will prove more successful than the last effort under President Clinton. Whatever happens tomorrow, today the premium rates are still rising and the quality of the care continues to fall. We still face months or perhaps years of struggle until reform brings down prices.