Saturday, April 16, 2011

A long way to go on health reform

A long way to go on health reform
By Umang Malhotra
San Diego Union-Tribune
April 15, 2011

The American health care system has been leaking like an old car for decades. Congress, in the search for a universal solution, is using a piecemeal or duct tape approach to stop the leaks. Our lawmakers bemoan the expense, while using the most cost-ineffective solution.

The system is undeniably broken. By reputable measurements, America ranks first in obesity, 27th in life expectancy, 37th in infant mortality and 54th in access to health care (tied with Fiji). CIA World Factbook figures are even worse. Despite the U.S. spending twice what the next affluent country spends per person, all international comparisons show that America lies near the bottom on health care. According to AARP data, it also lags far behind other countries in long-term care for seniors. Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. are uninsured; millions are underinsured, and more than half the personal bankruptcies – over 1 million a year – are caused by medical bills, something unheard of elsewhere.

America is the only affluent nation unable to provide universal health care for its residents – astonishing for the richest country in the world.

The reason is a money-driven system – riddled with interest groups selfishly fighting to protect their own constituencies. With the cost of health care rising at more than twice the rate of inflation, it is already a huge problem for businesses and governments. If it continues, it will be disastrous.

The health care bill signed by President Barack Obama is neither universal nor is it likely to ever be cost-effective. It is nearly 2,700 pages, and with the addition of all the enabling regulations, becomes a minefield open to interpretations in the hands of insurance companies and lawyers – a bureaucratic nightmare. The cost of premiums and payments from your pockets will keep on rising.

Sadly, many legislators turn the issue into an ideological controversy, rather than a search for common good. They bury their heads in a sand of partisanship, power and hypocrisy; accepting government health care plans for their families while denying the same to the rest of the population.

Other issues, uniquely American, are lobbying by insurance and drug companies, and the involvement of vast armies of lawyers. The same drug costs much more in America than in other countries, while frivolous malpractice lawsuits escalate the costly practice of defensive medicine...

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