The Health Care Debate in the U.S. and Why I Care

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Health care reform is the hottest topic in U.S. news media this summer. One question that arises in this debate is whether the government should spend the money to overhaul the old system, or use the money to pay off federal deficits?
 
As one of the 47 million uninsured Americans, I think that the health care system in the U.S. is terrible. I earn barely enough to cover my expenses, and at the end of the month, I am left with very little extra cash to spend on something as important and necessary as health insurance.
 
I looked into buying insurance, and since I’m very healthy with no prior medical conditions, I expected to see insurance premiums of $50 - $85 a month. I was shocked to find that the lowest premiums started at $150 - $200, excluding dental or vision!! There was no way I could afford those prices.
 
Fortunately, I live in San Francisco, a very conscious and progressive city, where two years ago the City and County introduced a program called "Healthy San Francisco." This program covers primary care for all city residents, and the pay structure is based on income. I have now been with this program for one year and, although it doesn’t include major medical care, I’m happy.
 
But I began to wonder what would happen if I broke my leg. Would I be able to afford the hospital bills, or would they bankrupt me? A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation [PDF link] found that: "Every week, thousands of Americans file for bankruptcy related to medical costs [and] 42% of adults report having problems accessing health care due to cost." I definitely favor a system of health care that benefits everyone, especially those that cannot afford it. After all, the rich will always be able to afford health care whether it is universal or not.

Here’s a cartoon that says it all.
 
How do other developed countries manage their citizens’ health care? PBS Frontline’s "Sick Around the World" website describes how five of the world’s developed nations go about taking care of their sick.
 
A completely socialized health care system might not work in the U.S., but universal care with regulated options that are based on fair-market values just might work. While providing access to all, it will create motivation for insurers and providers to offer the best service they can.
 
In this week's Global Pulse episode, Health Care: America and the World, host John Hamilton asks for your health care stories. Share your thoughts at Link's Real Conversations site!

 

 
 

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Health Care: Democrats Flounder, Conservatives Bring Guns, and Insurers Win

The debate over health care reform in the United States has now turned into more of a battle, replete with guns andGeorge Lakoff anger. The divisive rancor that had seemingly disappeared following Obama's election amid calls for national unity has resurfaced at contentious town halls on the health care issue, fueled in part, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, by "conflict-driven cable news." Linguistics professor and author George Lakoff, featured previously on Link in the special "There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America," takes the Democrats to task in this video for failing to sell a national health care plan to the American public. (Video courtesy of our partners at FORA.tv!) Instead, according to Lakoff, conservatives are successfully framing the debate with phrases like "death panels" and "government takeover," while Democrats refuse to risk touting the real and tragic failures of insurance company-based health care in the United States. (For an interesting look at the ill effects of the American health care system on ordinary folk, check out Andrew Sullivan's blog series at the Atlantic Monthly, "The Views From Your Sickbeds," and another article in the September 2009 edition of the Atlantic, "How American Health Care Killed My Father" by David Goldhill.)

Yesterday, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! also looked at the health care debate, interviewing Chad Terhune, a senior writer at BusinessWeek covering health care issues. Terhune's article, "The Health Insurers Have Already Won," looks at the real potential winners in health reform -- the health insurance industry. He writes, "The carriers have succeeded in redefining the terms of the reform debate to such a degree that no matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall, the insurance industry will emerge more profitable." (Watch the complete interview below, and read more at DemocracyNow.org.) And what do you think -- is a better health care system on the horizon for the U.S.? Or will insurance companies be the only winners in this battle?

 

 
 

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