Fixing Our Health Care System
“American health care costs too much, does too little, and leaves too many people out.” -Anne J., Health Care for All Minnesota
You’ve heard it said, our health care system is broken, but how and why is it broken? As a person who has several times faced the challenge of being uninsured and as a result could not always afford to access the health care system, I spent a lot of time researching the problems with and the good things about our system.
Recently I attend a presentation by Health Care for All Minnesota and have used their slides and my own findings below to talk about what works and what is not working about our health care system.
There is no doubt that the United States, far from being a leader, is far behind other countries in how we provide health care (remember these other countries have a variety of systems).
What is right about our system!
The health care system in the United States is more efficiently run than many other systems world-wide. This is not because of the free-market system but because over the years in attempt to lower health care costs, we have reduce redundancies in treatments. In addition, American’s do not over use the system. We actually go to the doctor far less often than in other countries.
Why the Health Care Market has Failed
Our health care system has failed as a market-based system. Consumers have largely lost their voice in the health care process. A recent comment made by this health care user exemplifies this issue:
“In reaching out to my provider to understand my liability for a procedure I needed to have, the provider was unable to tell me what my cost would be. I couldn’t even find out an estimate of how much I would owe.”
It seems as though the profit motive has run wild in our health care industry.
What Are the Outcomes of This Expensive and Unattainable System?
It also leaves out individuals with pre-existing conditions, which can vary widely. Right before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, the small non-profit I worked decided to provide me with health insurance. Before this I had been receiving my health insurance from Minnesota Care. However, because I was the only employee the health insurance was provided as an individual plan and although I lost MN Care insurance, I could not find a plan that would take me. The would not insure me because I had a pre-existing condition. You may wonder what my condition was? I was aging into menopause and was dealing with some minor complications, however because I was considered a high risk for a hysterectomy (which I never had) the insurance company would not insure me. The reality is, anyone, even a person with no chronic illness, can be considered to have a pre-existing condition. Indeed, aging automatically makes us all susceptible to having a pre-existing condition.
Even more disturbing, individuals who do have medical conditions are dying because they cannot access care.
“When Alec Smith turned 26 last May and aged out of his parents’ health insurance, he discovered that he couldn’t afford coverage of his own. Within weeks, he was trying to ration his diabetes medication because he couldn’t afford a $1,300 refill.”
Fine. We have a Problem. But Won’t Fixing the Problem Be Expensive?
Many people fear that if a new health care system is enacted, the cost to tax payers will sky rocket. The truth is that tax payers already assume the burden of almost 50% of health care costs. Changing our health care system to eliminate the costly administrative burden will most likely save taxpayers money.
What Can Be Done
Based on the research being done by many qualified authorities, I believe a solution to our health care failure is at hand. Affordable and reliable health care for all is a possibility. This could be achieved by moving to a single payer insurance system, such as the Medicare for All or MinnesotaCare for All proposals outlined below.
It is governments responsibility to ensure stable, functioning systems for all our community members. Without stable systems we will decline into chaos. Abraham Lincoln said this well: