Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care

After my daughter spent a month in the hospital this spring, I have a whole new perspective on the debate raging over health care reform.

A fascinating new study helps to illustrate, the urgent need to move away from the for-profit health insurance model. According to a joint study by Harvard University and Ohio State University, sixty percent of US bankruptcies in 2007 were driven by medical bills. What's really alarming is that 75% of those folks had health insurance.

"Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," Harvard's Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for a single-payer health insurance program for the United States, said in a statement.

"For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection," he added.

And why is that? Because if you do get sick and need significant treatment, odds are your policy will simply get cancelled. According to the report, a quarter of people lose their insurance coverage immediately when they suffer a disabling illness, and another quarter lose it within the first year. Insurance companies (or employers who offer their own plans) save money by dropping you if you're too expensive.

Critics of reform scream about the possibility of rationing health care under a single-payer system, but the reality is that we already have rationing. Insurance companies protect their profits by dropping folks who need expensive care, or putting artificial limits on how many days you can spend in the hospital, how many times you can visit a doctor, or even annual caps on how much they'll spend for your care. All of those things that the Fox News crowd warn us could happen under "Obama Care" are exactly the things we have right now.