Inequalities in the health care system

The following is in response to Jane Carrell’s letter to the editor in the July 6-12 issue of The Rock River Times.

Like Ms. Carrell, I’m no fan of the Affordable Care Act, but for different reasons. Many of its provisions were insisted upon by insurers, private hospitals and drug companies to preserve and expand their profit potential.

In my view, President Barack Obama should have devoted his presidency to supporting legislation that would have provided all Americans with a publicly-financed, privately-delivered system such as is enjoyed by many of the world’s other advanced nations. (To see what such a system could look like, check out H.R. 676.) He instead yielded to corporate influence.

Ms. Carrell’s endorsement of physician-owned hospitals highlights the inequalities in our current health care delivery system. Cindy Morrison, executive director of the Coalition of Full-service Community Hospitals, writes:

“No matter the direction of the discussion, the bottom line is these hospitals are motivated by profit. Physician-owned hospitals cherry-pick the most profitable patients and usually offer only the most profitable procedures for health solutions, even if unnecessary.” Readers of this letter might consult their current health insurers to see if their policies even qualify for treatment in POHs.

The market rations many things well in our society, but health care isn’t one of them, nor should it be. In a for-profit system, hospitals and doctors get the message that individuals have different values based on their ability (or inability) to pay. It is imperative that we compel legislators to foster the development of a fairer, less costly system than we now have. The market has had more than 60 years to do so and hasn’t. Per capita spending on health care in the U.S. is at least twice that of other advanced nations; health outcomes are no better, and huge segments of the population have no access. Administrative costs in the private realm are on the order of 30 percent, compared with about 3 percent for Medicare.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that about 18,000 people in our nation die prematurely each year because they don’t have health insurance and so let their conditions go untreated. Health care reform is a moral issue.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I am willing to contribute to the well-being of all my fellow citizens. Universal coverage is within reach of this society and would do a great deal toward strengthening our social bonds by recognizing the worth and dignity of all citizens.

Gaen McClendon


From the July 20-26, 2011 issue

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