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America’s health care needs reform

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of commentaries on the issues of health care that will have major funding impact on the economy for 2013. The topics will include senior care, obesity and universal medical insurance.

With retention of the Obama administration for another four years, the implementation of the president’s health care program will be a prime topic for 2013 and beyond. It seems obvious that the trouncing of the Republican in the November election was partly due to the party’s resolve to repeal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Americans apparently preferred to have access to health care insurance.

Why do Americans think we have the best health care system, yet 45 million are uninsured and dependent on society for medical needs? That’s what a Washington Post correspondent pondered when he went world-wide to test health care in developed countries and some underdeveloped nations.

“Healing of America,” T. R. Reid’s 2009 book is about his journey to survey what other countries do to provide affordable medical care for their citizens. His conclusions were timely to coincide with the controversial Obamacare program approved by Congress in 2010 and still being implemented.

After Reid tested the medical plans of at least a dozen counties with his injured and painful shoulder displacement, here is what he wrote. Before the U.S. health care system can be fixed to satisfy political, economic and medical demands, Americans must make a moral decision to provide medical treatment to all who need it. That is the basic principle found in all other developed nations’ medical insurance and treatment.

Long before the two political parties convened to take positions on the major issues of the day, the future of Obamacare was on the chopping block. It became a rallying point for the Republicans pledged to strip the controversial law of so many provisions it will not do the job of making health care available to all citizens.

That means reform of the archaic U.S. health-care system will be challenged again by the insurance companies and power brokers for other special interests that have a grip on congressional legislation. They like the costly inefficiencies of the present system that enhance their bottom lines.

Tracing the events of Mr. Reid’s odyssey into universal health care plans of other nations, here are some highlights of good points that are ignored by American legislators and providers of medical services.

What are the advantages of a universal health-care system? Longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality and better recovery rates from major diseases are the major benefits enjoyed by other rich countries. Yet, the U.S spends more per person for health care than those countries.

Before the U.S. can fix the healt-care system, it has to satisfy political, economic and medical demands. It is a moral issue to be answered. Should medical treatment be available to all who need it?

The statistics are revealing. There are 45 million uninsured Americans, and 700,000 of them have filed for bankruptcy to settle their medical bills. Other rich counties don’t have this problem. The World Health Organization rated 191 nations for their health-care systems. France was number one; the United States was 37, behind Morocco.

Why is America so deficient? There is a universal fear of so-called “socialized medicine.” It is a powerful weapon used by special interests to pressure legislators despite the vague definition of socialized medicine in the minds of Americans. Reid reports that 70 percent are on their own to provide insurance. The remaining 30 percent have socialized medicine, including seniors, the military, veterans, government employees and Native Americans.

Indifference among members of Congress can be equated to the gold-plated health-care systems available to them as an example of the deepest form of socialized medicine. Americans are generally fearful of anything identified as socialism. They don’t realize that welfare, education and many other entitlements provided by government are the pillars of our socialist economy.

Why is even basic reform so difficult? The medical insurance companies profit by finding ways to not pay for treatments using armies of adjustors and shuffling paperwork seeking exceptions. Even the best managed health-care systems require months to settle a claim, even years. In France, the highest rated health-care system requires settlement of a medical provider’s claim within five days, all electronically.

It’s not going to be easy to implement the Obamacare legislation, already three years in motion. The 2,400-page bill is packed with compromises to satisfy the special interests. At least the need for reform is brought into the light away from the sinister powers that connived in dark hallways to keep the status quo.

Those are only a few of the issues presented by T.R. Reid’s book “Healing of America.” Comparisons to foreign healthcare systems will be outlined in a future installment of this series.

Ford is a freelance writer located in San Diego. He can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com.

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