Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Reform or Not?

I have been noticing the past few weeks that lots of my facebook family and friends have been taking the online poll regarding heath care reform. I haven’t tallied up the score but I have noticed that folks are very clear- yes or no- even though there is a maybe option. The only person I saw that was brave enough to be undecided was my cousin Linda. (Good for you!)
I don’t know how everyone became so clear, when no really has all the facts. Of course, it looks like it’s divided down party lines, and the political rhetoric of both the left and the right is mimicked perfectly in the comment sections.
That’s what was bothering me originally. I couldn’t hear any voices- just politicians and talk show hosts.

So, I started thinking… and that led to a little homework… which led to more questions.

I am going to try to lay this out- the facts and figures I have gathered, so that it makes sense to everyone. (no easy task given the mumbo jumbo I am digging through. )

So I think the BIG divide consists of these questions:
Is health care reform socialistic?
Will tax payers pay for everything?
Will the government decide who lives and who dies?
Will companies be fined if they don’t offer insurance?

One question at time folks. First, though- let me tell you where I am coming from. My personal perspective-
I belong to neither the left nor the right of political parties. I am independent. I am one of those people who need to know the facts before I make a declaration. I am open- minded and usually able to see both sides of an argument. I am decisive- so I cut through the crapola and sugar coat nothing.
I am a 57 year old white, middle class woman who has not made much money in last two years. As an independent contractor, I paid my own health insurance the last four years until the beginning of this year when I had to drop it. It was crappy anyway- my last complete exam cost me about 2K out of pocket. I have preexisting conditions that won’t kill me and will never qualify for disability but will keep my premiums high and my pharmacy at rite-aid busy. I am about 40-50% deaf in both ears. I wear (2) hearing aids which I paid cash for- 3995.00. The life span of good hearing aids is about four years if the dogs don’t eat them.
I am currently employed- my employer does not offer health insurance or pay me enough to buy my own insurance and groceries too.
Of all the different health coverage’s I have had in my life, my favorite was Kaiser Permanente. The doctors were the best, the wait the shortest, copay the lowest and prescriptions were free or 5.00. My pregnancy, C-section and 5 days in the hospital cost me 60.00. Granted, that was 25 years ago but the going rate then for that particular pregnancy would have been about 8-10 grand and probably 40,000 today.
Okay- so here I am wondering if health reform is a good thing or a bad thing. I see all my buddies have already decided so why haven’t I?
Right off the bat- my gut tells me we need reform. Few can afford to go to the doctor. ONE gauze bandage in the hospital can cost 14.95. An overnight stay in the hospital- just for the bed... no meds, no Band-Aids…can be 700-1000 dollars per night.

Okay- on to the meat.
Tax payers are afraid they will pay for this. Guess what? You (and I) already do. 27 years ago when my brother was in motorcycle accident with no health insurance- the taxpayers foot the bill for his 100 plus days that he lingered in a coma, his brain surgery, his eye surgery, his ICU stay (over 2 months)… oh yeah- the helicopter ride from Nowhereville to Santa Rosa Memorial and the ambulance ride to the “rehab” hospital where he died 3 weeks later. I never thanked you fellow taxpayers- so thank you on behalf of my family.
Okay- nothing has changed there- we taxpayers still pay for uninsured everything.
Who decides who will live and who will die now? Well… it sort of depends but mostly for this conversation –right now, it’s the insurance companies. And I do mean some (hopefully) high school graduate who may or may not be intelligent and who for practical purposes is an order entry clerk. They have no medical background at all. They input some information- and their program kicks back a reply. There is no case by case. You actually have a better shot with the government because they would be given new guidelines for deciding treatment options.

Will individual people be fined if they have no health insurance?
Well this is as confusing as it gets. As of this moment in time- nothing is in cement. BUT it looks like yes small businesses with a payroll of 500,000 would indeed be fined under the current proposal.
According to an article “Proposed Health Insurance Fine Puts Small Businesses In A Fix” By PETER BENESH an Investors Business Daily news analyst. “The penalty would start at 2% of payroll and increase with payroll size. The maximum penalty would be 8% of payroll for firms whose annual outlay for wages and salaries is $750,000 or more.”

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, their latest data available.
A recent study shows that based on the effects of the recession alone (not job loss), it is projected that nearly seven (7) million Americans will lose their health insurance coverage between 2008 and 2010. 3 Urban Institute researchers estimate that if unemployment reaches 10 percent, another six (6) million Americans will lose their health insurance coverage. Taking these numbers together, it is conceivable that by next year, 57 to 60 million Americans will be uninsured”
Last but not least… is health care reform socialistic?
Socialism is definitely an economic philosophy, which believes capitalism, is not fair. With emphasis on health insurers that have taken advantage and helped set prices for health care that almost no one can afford I think Pres. Obama’s plan might include a government run health care system that would probably work as well as the Veterans Administration.(yes that well)

I think … for what it’s worth: there is a solution somewhere in between socialism or government run facilities who know nothing about medicine and greedy insurance companies who also know nothing about medicine. I think, they can use successful models, like Kaiser for instance and have affordable health care for all. Yes, some will pay more than others- larger groups higher discounts, lower co pays.
Some things need to change though. Somehow, hospitals and medical offices need to manage their costs. Medical suppliers need to play ball. EVERYONE needs to help.

The President says he can find money in Medicare and I believe him. I have seen redundancies for years in that program and I am getting close enough in age to be worried about it. I could personally walk into any government run office right now, and save them a butt load of money in printed materials and Xerox copies alone. And accounting is not even my forte.

I have inserted several websites I read and loosely quoted a paragraph or two. I tried to find a GOP website with facts and figures as opposed to editorials- to no avail. I will keep looking. I know- there has to be something out there.

If any of this has helped anyone that is undecided- then good. My intention was never to change minds- I just couldn’t help but think maybe someone else was as confused as me about the facts. I am open for discussion and please feel free to let me know what I missed.

Meanwhile, I am going to take my aching feet that need a doctor for a pedicure and hope that before I am completely crippled I can buy my own insurance. It would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about when I can afford to go to the doctor next.