A recurring theme running through America’s political debate for more than a decade (with a lot more smoke than light) is the issue of healthcare. Single payer, private healthcare, government versus private care, Obamacare, socialized medicine, free markets ...both sides claim to have exclusive access to the right answers yet the debate rages on without resolution and middle America continues to battle for affordable healthcare.
First, let’s agree that the healthcare delivery system has significant problems mostly associated with expenses. It was broken before Obamacare, it is broken now, and without critical reform, it will remain broken in the foreseeable future.
The two competing solutions seem to be free markets and government controls. Many claim the free market unencumbered by government regulation can resolve the issues...but history says otherwise. The proponents of a single payer approach have no better history. Is it possible that both sides of the dogmatic “either or” approach are wrong?
The Achilles’ heel of the “Free Market” is that the profit motive driving it has historically been cruel, heartless and too often bottom line oriented. And, although this is true, it is also true that government run programs (Medicare and VA) have historically refused a larger percentage of requests for medical services than any private American health insurance company.
The primary weakness of socialized medicine is its inability to meet the demand for services generated by single payer systems. Two popular examples, Canada and Great Britain both have extremely long waiting lines for critically needed services. It is also undeniable that both countries have a higher percentage of their citizens “covered.” Under our current “broken” system we are projected to have shortages of medical service providers (doctors, nurses and other critical caregivers) significant enough to create a national healthcare emergency if not addressed soon.
How do we move forward? Is healthcare an “unalienable” human right?
My response is a qualified “Yes”...but to what extent? I would propose that every American should be free from the fear of catastrophic medical disasters. Both accident and disease have created heart wrenching results for many families in America.
If the federal government were to establish an annual catastrophic “cap” above which the required health care services would be provided much of this pain and destruction could be avoided. The “cap” would operate much like current insurance deductibles. This would free private insurance companies to provide whatever level of coverage their customers might prefer at much lower rates than today because the insurance companies’ risk would be infinitely more knowable.
This approach would provide universal catastrophic medical care to every eligible citizen and give each family in America the opportunity to provide the additional health insurance they decide is affordable and prudent using free market competition to ensure reasonable prices for the services they choose.
Ahh, but there is a more insidious pressure on the system that is driving up healthcare costs that must be address in order to reach the goal of affordable healthcare for the maximum number of participants. As Paul Harvey used to say “Stay tuned for the rest of the story”.