By Rosemary Piser
Associate Editor, eNews Park Forest
This past week, President Obama’s White House Forum on Health Reform held its first meeting. As we are all well-aware, the sky rocketing health care costs for families, businesses and the government can no longer be sustained. Globally, if the current costs of delivery of health care in the United States are not addressed, United States businesses will have difficulty competing in the word economy. But no sooner does the Administration begin reform discussions, than we begin to hear its critics warn of the dire consequences of “government-run, socialized medicine.”
But history shows this is not the first time these claims have been made.
The Medicare program was established in 1965 after more than 25 years of controversial debate. At that time, the Medicare program was viewed by many as a questionable expansion of the role of the federal government that would ultimately lead to “socialized medicine.” If you read the legislative history of the Medicare program, the compromise made by Congress to quell the fears of its constituents and vote to pass the legislation, was to allow private insurance companies to administer the program. It made perfect sense at the time since the federal government had no experience in administering a healthcare program. And the insurance companies took their knowledge and expertise and modeled the Medicare program after existing insurance practices.
However, much has changed since 1965. Clearly, anyone ever needing to avail themselves of medical care learns quite quickly that the delivery of healthcare in this country is a business. One only needs to make a trip to the local Emergency Room to know the drill. As soon as the staff determines you’re not going to immediately die, the next question is “how will you be paying for this?” Many insurance companies are for-profit organizations with stocks that are traded publicly. We’ve all seen hospital after hospital closing due to the fact that they are providing too much care without adequate or in some cases, no reimbursement. Decisions about care are too often made based on financial considerations rather than what’s in the best interest of the patient. And for those who are unfortunate enough to have a mental illness, even cold, hard cash can’t buy you the care you need because there simply are not enough treating facilitates.
But the fact remains, the United States has one of the most expensive health care systems in the world but the quality of care is one of the worst. And this is what we’ve bought from the private sector for fear of “socialized medicine.” One only needs to look at the healthcare systems in Canada or Great Britain, for example, to see that a government-run healthcare system is not such a bad situation. Admittedly, there are problems with these systems as well, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s time for us to open our minds and not be fearful of the change we all know needs to be made. Clearly, we don’t have 25 years to debate this issue.
Rosemary Piser has been a nurse for 40 years. In addition, she holds advanced degrees in public service administration and healthcare law. She has worked extensively as a clinical nurse, a manager for a major insurance’s company’s Medicare program, and consultant on healthcare legal and cost issues.