Steamboat Springs Confused about how to fix our country's health care dilemma? You're not alone. It's difficult to understand the current mess we're in. But what is painfully clear is that 47 million people aren't covered, and that includes nine million children. So what plan does the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama offer to correct this?
Obama proposes a marriage of public and private health care: 1) expanded Medicare and Medicaid systems for the elderly, poor, and those with modest incomes, combined with 2) a private insurance system for those who prefer it. He pledges to have a universal health care plan in place by the end of his first term in office. Let's take a look at what this plan would include:
- Cover all Americans
- Cover all pre-existing conditions
- Cover all essential medical services, including mental health
- Fund preventative health care as a priority
- Portability, moving from job to job
Obama will cover all Americans by introducing a new national health plan similar to the excellent Congressional plan for those not currently covered while working with the existing plans of businesses and the self-employed. His plan will decrease current premiums and subsidize those with more moderate incomes to be able to buy into the plan. He projects this health care plan to cost $100 billion a year.
Where will he find the money to do this? It will come from ending the Iraq war, increasing taxes for those earning more than $250,000, instituting a carbon emissions tax, mandating that employers who do not offer health care pay into the public plan, and increasing competition between the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.
Covering all pre-existing health conditions and including mental health services will bring a sigh of relief to many, as will the ability to change jobs without worrying about losing coverage. Just this reduction of stress would make us a healthier and happier people. Making preventative health care a priority would not only save money by preventing the big nasty diseases, but it would also improve our quality of life in so many ways. At present, 75 percent of all health care costs are spent on treating chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Although studies have shown that a healthy diet, exercise and emotional connections are the safest and most effective prevention of chronic disease, we currently spend only 4 percent on prevention. A larger investment in preventive care would yield huge rewards to us all.
There are other benefits, as well. Hospitals will save $10 billion to $15 billion a year because they will no longer be the unpaid providers of care to the uninsured. Increased transparency will require hospitals and insurance companies to report the quality and costs of their services so that wise decisions can be made in choosing health care. Investments in health information technology systems will improve the efficiency of our system and provide great savings, as well.
Obama's health care plan is a visionary and realistic approach to what has been an insurmountable problem. It takes into account the existing system and most importantly, covers all Americans, all pre-existing conditions, mental health needs and offers portability. His emphasis on saving money in reasonable areas while investing in preventive care and medical technology is balanced and effective. The well-reasoned funding will come from ending a tragic war, increasing taxes on those who can afford it and instituting a much needed carbon emissions tax with its added advantage of cleaning up our environment. The human and economic costs of our unfair and ineffective health care system have hurt all of us long enough. Let's vote for change.
Halteman Lewis is a strong advocate for universal single-payer health care. She practiced alternative healing as a chiropractor in Steamboat Springs for 28 years.