Sunday, July 15, 2007

Another Voice on Universal Access to Health Care

As interested as I am in universal access to health care, it may surprise you that I haven’t yet seen “Sicko.” Fact is, I tend to resist seeing movies that everybody thinks I ought to see. I’ve never seen “Passion of the Christ;” but, then, I’ve read the book many times, so that’s little loss. I do think I’ll get around to seeing “Sicko”, though – eventually.

That said, let me bring to your attention a recent interview that used “Sicko” as an opportunity to reflect on the American health care system (or lack thereof). Last Monday, July 9, on “Fresh Air,” Terry Gross interviewed Jonathan Oberlander. Oberlander is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, teaching in the Social Medicine and Political Science programs. He is author of The Political Life of Medicare. He makes some interesting points.

He suggests, for example, that there are other models of national health care systems that we haven’t been looking at. He doesn’t believe that the United States will commit to a single-payer plan, much less truly socialized medicine, as in the models of Canada or Great Britain, respectively. He suggests, instead, that we might look at Germany and Australia, which have incorporated commercial insurance companies into national health care programs

He also points out that in our existing structure (I resist calling it a “system,” and I work in it), requiring standardized procedures of all insurance companies would save a lot of money without affecting health care. As a corollary, he asserts that one of the greatest expenses in health care is in underwriting costs: the time and money spent determining whether the patient qualifies for care, and what care the patient might qualify for.

This is forty minutes well worth your time. There is some consideration and critique of the movie, but it’s primarily an opportunity to reflect on health care in the United States. As we work toward recognizing a right to health care in this country, new voices with new ideas are always welcome.


Anonymous said...

I think the reason congress has not acted on passing legislation for universal healthcare is that congress has their healthcare paid for by the American people. There is NO urgent need for the congress to act on their own behalf, because they don't see the problem in their own households. The problem is "somewhere, way out there " for them. If the Congress had the same healthcare as a part-time minimum wage worker (IE NO HEALTHCARE COVERAGE) I think they would be getting some legislation together in a hurry. I do not see a future in "government paid" healthcare, because having another tax on the payroll statement would prove unpopular. If, however, each employee paid a flat rate through payroll deduction, thus REMOVING the corporate obligation of large companies to pay executive healthcare premiums, I think both Republicans AND Democrats could get on board. And as for the case of immigrant healthcare and elderly healthcare, those who work, pay, those who can't (SSI ans MEDICARE recipients) are provided for. We need to stop talking about what divides us, and start talking about what we agree upon so that we can get things done, in Church and in government!

Marshall Scott said...

I certainly agree that it contributes to the problem that our representatives don't have this problem now, and have never had this problem. I also think it contributes that so many who would benefit from some kind of real system - whether single-payer or some public-private partnership - feel disconnected, and don't vote.

It is certainly a complex problem, but I also think we aren't shown any creative models. What we see are what each stakeholder can't accept, set up as straw men to knock down. Thanks for your comment.