It seems that about every third client we talk with here in Colorado is unhappy with the current health insurance system. If you look at the clients with pre-existing medical conditions, nearly all of them have complaints about the system.
For people with employer-sponsored coverage, the complaint is that the policy costs too much or doesn’t cover enough. For people buying their own insurance, the complaints are cost and medical underwriting. For people without insurance, the complaint is usually that they don’t see the point in spending so much money on health insurance when they don’t use it anyway.
Regardless of their position on the issue, people are unhappy with the current system. And yet they are also resistant to change. The Clinton administration tried in the 90s to bring in universal health insurance, and it was met with resistance from congress, fueled by lobbyists and powerful special interest groups. Currently several states are proposing various universal health care reforms, and yet support is still lukewarm.
In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger is trying to institute universal health care, but public support for it is only 33%. It’s frustrating to hear so many people complain about the current system, and yet still be so resistant to dramatic change in the status quo. There is no easy way out here. It seems like people are waiting for Santa Claus. That somehow we’re going to be able to set up a system where everyone is covered by ultra-comprehensive private health insurance, with lots of options for carriers, and no government monitoring or intervention (Big Brother = Bad). That we’ll continue paying the taxes we already pay, but not the high-dollar health insurance premiums. That pre-existing conditions will all be covered, and we’ll all have a choice of whatever doctors and hospitals we want to use. That is not going to happen.
If we really want everyone to have health insurance and access to quality health care, we’re going to have to pay higher taxes. Either that or cut programs elsewhere, and there’s always a group that suffers when that happens. The upside is that the vast majority of uninsured Americans are employed, so they would be contributing to the increased tax pool as well – we all would.
There are hundreds of ideas floating around right now for fixing the health care system, and I’m sure that many more will surface in the next year leading up to the 2008 elections. Some call for universal single-payer coverage for all citizens, others call for mandatory private insurance for everyone, and many options propose a combination of private and government-sponsored coverage. But none of them are free. However we fix it, we’ll have to pay for it. As long as med school costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, doctors are not going to start working for $20/hour. Cutting-edge research and development in medicine is not cheap. If we’re going to provide access to health care for everyone, the money will have to come from somewhere.
Nobody likes paying taxes. It would be much more fun to have that money for a vacation in Tahiti instead. But it’s nice to have paved roads and a free public education system. It’s time that we looked at health care the same way. Regardless of your position on what needs to be done to provide insurance and affordable health care for the 45 million uninsured Americans (and the many more who are struggling to pay premiums and are one step away from falling into the uninsured sector), we all need to recognize that we’ll have to spend a little money to make it work. Just like Social Security and law enforcement, health care is a cause for the common good, and ensuring that everyone has access to it is a worthy goal.