Private sector has not put U.S. health care first

Mention health care reform and most people need life-support. Some see reform as thinly veiled socialism if government were to manage payments to hospitals and doctors.
Yet this is nothing new. Our Medicaid and Med-icare programs are de-signed in this model — though fraught with unnecessary subsidies and overcharges.
Likewise, the 1,400 hospitals for our soldiers are government-operated under the Veterans Ad-ministration, complete with electronic medical records. When compared with private hospitals, V.A. facilities also have a better record for quality of care.
President Obama has called for an overhaul of the U.S. health care system so that every American has an opportunity at health insurance, be it by their current carrier, or government-sponsored. He wants health care costs slashed by limiting unnecessary treatments and by leveling the field for how doctors are paid and hospitals are reimbursed. He wants it so that pre-existing medical conditions don’t bar you from coverage and that insurance can be transported from one job to another. It’s detrimental to the work force that people are tethered to their jobs only because of the medical coverage that comes with them.
Today, 47 million American families lack health insurance. Another 25 million are under-insured, that is, they can’t afford to cover the gap between what insurance pays and medical bills demand.
If any politician or salesman tells you the United States has the best health care system in the world, call them on it.
The United States has the most expensive system in the world. But despite an annual $2.5 trillion poured into the health care system, health care services for U.S. citizens ranks 37th in the world. The mile markers are infant mortality and death rates for adults. Thirty-six other industrialized countries surpass the United States in how well their citizens’ health is maintained.
Good health isn’t measured by the number of procedures; but by a person’s quality of life. Excessive scans, surgical procedures, medications and hospital stays don’t equal greater benefits and in fact, put patients at higher risks for infections or complications from surgery.
As individuals, we average 20 percent of our income going to health care costs. That’s double what citizens of France, Great Britain, Japan, and other industrialized countries pay. And those health insurance costs, which have skyrocketed in the past 10 years, have far exceeded our take-home income. Increasingly, employees see potential raises being diverted to pay for health insurance benefits.

IN DEVISING a better plan for health care we have had a very good recent lesson on what not to do.
Medicare Plan D, be-gun in 2006, was supposedly devised to give better prescription drug coverage to senior citizens and the disabled. Had it followed the plan provided for U.S. veterans through the V.A., it would have had a better chance of being affordable — and fair.
Veterans can purchase medications directly from the government, which has purchased them from pharmaceutical companies, eliminating the middleman, insurance companies. Their costs for prescription drugs are a fraction of what U.S. civilians pay.
Instead, those on Medicaid and Medicare are bombarded with literally thousands of formularies, purporting to fill their needs. What they are doing is filling the pockets of insurance executives who typically earn multi-million-dollar salaries. Today, there are a mind-boggling 1,429 prescription drug plans from which to choose in the Plan D program.
The infamous “doughnut hole” — where coverage stops when a patient uses up $2,250 worth of medicine but kicks in again after another $3,600 in costs have been incurred — is especially punitive to the poor and sickly.
For efficiencies and fairness, Plan D earns an F.
When it comes to health care, allowing only the private sector to compete for services and goods has not proven to be in the best interests of patients — by measure of their pocketbook or their health. It’s time to put government-sponsored plans in the mix.
Yes, Congress, we want change in how the country’s health care system is managed, delivered and paid for. Now, please.

— Susan Lynn