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Healthcare - Why Congress Can't Fix It

posted 8/7/2008 10:57:48 AM |
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  docvegas

Barack Obama says he can fix it better. The fact is that he Cant “fix” anything. Heof can change the system, but there are some serious issues as to why neither of their plans will actually do anything to lower the cost of health care in the United States. The reason is very simple when you stop and think about it rather than get emotional about the issue.

You cannot solve a problem until you know what the cause(s) of the problem are. As with most problems of the self-inflicted kind, no one in the government can look in the mirror and see himself or herself as a part of the problem. Are drug companies, insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors regulated? Yes, they are, and guess who creates the legislation to regulate them. Congress does. Who are the people claiming to have the plan to fix health care? The very people who have been regulating it in the first place. Until Congress can look itself in the eye and realize that it is the cause of our health care problems, the problems will not be fixed. The problems in our health care system are multi-layered and Congress is at the center of every layer.

Nearly everyone agrees the cost of health care in the United States is dramatically higher in the United States than either Canada or Mexico. Just how much so is astounding. A prime example was when I was working in Montana on the Canadian border. I injured my leg, and as the closest medical facility was i across the border in Canada. The total cost of the visit (including doctor’s fees for stitching my leg, admittance, and drugs) was under $50. In the United States, we pay that much just for the local anesthesia. It does not stop there. I have worked in the livestock industry for over thirty years. We use many of the same drugs in cattle that are administered to people for respiratory illness. If it cost twenty-five dollars to treat on a three hundred pound calf on a five-day treatment, we consider it an expensive medicine. This is about the same as treating two average sized people. The drug dexamethasone, purchased through a veterinarian, costs roughly five and a half cents per mil-liter. It your child is born prematurely, he/she will be administered the same medicine for a hundred dollars a mil-liter. Even giving consideration to the fact there are different strengths of this drug the markup for the higher strength (at $0.25 per ml) is still a four hundred percent markup

Over charging the American people for drugs is just one layer. While I have nothing against drug or insurance companies making a profit, a four hundred-time markup is more akin to robbery than it is to profit. If drug companies make a profit on the drugs they sell in Canada and Mexico, they should be able to sell them at the same price here in the United States and still make a decent profit.

Another layer is malpractice suits and the costs of malpractice insurance that is passed on to the consumer through higher prices in actual medical costs, and medical insurance as well. The biggest problem with malpractice suits is that the insurance companies want to save the money of going to trial so they settle out of court. This protects doctors from actually being found, in court, of being negligent. It also encourages attorneys to take on frivolous malpractice suits on a contingency basis because the odds show that it will be settled out of court. Congress needs to pass legislation demanding that all malpractice suits go to trial and that if the doctor is not found guilty, that the attorney filing the suit cover all court costs and legal fees.

Along this same line, currently if a doctor loses their license due to malpractice in one state, they simply go to another state, get a new license and start over. Congress needs to pass legislation requiring all doctors to have a federal license to practice medicine. Before a state could issue a license to practice medicine they would need to cross reference the doctor with the federal data base. In this manner, a doctor guilty of malpractice could not just start over in another state.

The third layer is health insurance. While the advertised purpose of health insurance companies is to provide you with health care, the real reason behind these companies is for them to turn a profit for their shareholders. When you buy a policy, the company is gambling that you will pay more into the system than you take out. Your premiums are combined with those of others buy from them as well as other investments they make in order to hedge against their losses. Most will not pay for pre-existing conditions because that is a bad bet. Your pre-existing condition assures them that they will have to pay out more than you will put into the program. This is a perfectly understandable practice. However, setting limits on how much they will pay, or canceling your policy, if and when you do have a catastrophic illness shows only a concern for the bottom line and not for the customer. The bottom line is that cancellation should only occur if a client does not pay the premiums for reasons other than catastrophic illness. There needs to be provisions made to protect the policies of those who become so sick they cannot work enough to pay their policy premiums.

Along the same lines, if you lose your job, you also lose your company provided insurance. Help is available with the COBRA plan, but it is expensive and unaffordable for many of those being forced to live on unemployment while searching for another job. It is just another quasi safety net to make it look like the government understands, and is taking action on the problem. Something needs to be done to assure that if one loses their job, that their company provided insurance would not lapse. Legislation could be passed to continue covering employer provided insurance through unemployment.

Another big cost of health care is advertising prescription drugs. Billions of dollars are spent by drug companies advertising in multi media formats like modern day snake oil salespersons. Drugs are advertised along with their symptoms to get people to visit their doctors and ask for the drug. It should be the other way around. If you don’t feel well and go to the doctor, you should be able to tell him/her what your symptoms are and he should tell you what kind of drug you need. These advertisements only add to the healthcare problem by increased costs, and by instilling general hypochondria in the general population.

While this is but a short version of the problems with our health care system, it shows some of the biggest flaws. It also demonstrates that, at the middle of each problem, is our very own Congress. Before Congress can develop a health care program there is a list of things they need to do:

1. Determine the cost of drugs in neighboring countries

2. Regulate drug costs in this country to be more in line with our neighbors to the north and south of us (as well as in line with the rest of the wo

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Comments:

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Wordsofwit

Aug 7 @ 12:45PM  
I am reluctant to comment when my comments are not automatically approved, so are many others. Change your settings.

I just want to add the the cost of health care has exceeded the inflation rate by over three percent for years.

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Healthcare - Why Congress Can't Fix It