I can haz health care?

I am very lucky: I have health insurance through my job.  The Hubby has insurance through his job.  We don’t have children about whose health coverage we need to worry, and my immediate family is all covered.  We haven’t had any major accidents or sicknesses that are forcing us to make hard money vs. health decisions. 

But there are a lot of people in the United States who, through any number of consequences and situations, do find themselves without health insurance in the United States, and when they are faced with the high cost of health care in this country, they can suffer bankruptcy, loss of employement, permanant physical and mental harm, and even death.  That’s a fact that has been highlighted with everything from international studies to local small-town reporting. 

When these people live in other countries  – countries that have universal health care – along with universal police, firefighters, schooling, roads and parks, and other “socialist” constructs – they have options and opportunities to receive emergency, preventative and diagnostic care.  In the US almost anyone can access free emergency care for acute problems.  But things get a little trickier if you need to receive a free annual wellness checkup, or if you want to find out why you’ve been having persistant, nagging abdominal discomfort for the last month.   

Our health is at the root of our ability to strive for happiness.  If we have health, we can more easily concentrate on learning, working, and building and supporting ourselves, our families and our communities.  If we’re sick, all we want to do is feel better so that we can go back to these other pursuits.  Being sick trumps all – legitimate businesses give a pass from work (for a brief time) if we’re sick.  If a friend or family member is sick we’re excused from other duties.  Our refrain is feel better first, then get back to the daily routine.

Health care is as important as education – both contribute to the future success of our national and international success, and our continued survival and evolution on this planet.  We have “universal” education, now let’s get on with passing “universal” health insurance and financing reform, or as it’s being called currently, health care reform.  Let’s extend our helping hands to hand out health care.  We can’t do it for free, obviously, but we can do it as not-for-profit.  We need to discontinue this policy of profitting from making our fellow citizens healthy.  I believe that the economy will not collapse, and that there will still be careers available in health care at all levels, that we will still develop drugs and diagnostics and new surgical and health care procedures.  I believe that these ventures will all still be needed and profitable, and as such that they will continue to employee workers and sell products and services.

The Obama administration and our elected officials are so close to passing national health care reform.  Soooo close.  In little more than one year President Obama and the Democrats have maneuvered the Republican and special interests roadblocks that have stumped other administrations for decades, and they have done so with an amount of class, diplomacy and intelligence that is refreshingly different from the past eight years of GWB rule. 

But what’s next for this fledgling health care reform?  After uniting at the federal level (at least to a degree that will pass legislation) , we already have a new form of pushback: State-rule challenges.  Idaho can now be proud to be recognized as the first state to give their elected officials and Commander in Chief the finger.  Idaho is the first state to sign legislature that will force them to sue the government if an individual mandate makes its way into the final health care reform bill. 

This is absurd.  And potentially costly for Idaho and the federal government.  What is even more absurd is that, according to the article cited above, there’s similar legislation pending in 37 other states.  Republicans have been saying that this health care bill is too expensive…we’ll never be able to pay for it…it costs too much money…individual costs are going to explode…it’s too costly…and on and on.  Well guess what?

THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE IS KEY TO THE SUCCESS OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE!  Quit fighting the individual mandate – it’s what’s going to make health care affordable for all of us!    In the Washington Post, Ezra Klein explains in wonderful detail why we can’t do without the individual mandate:

From the insurer’s perspective, it’s a better deal to insure people who won’t need to use their insurance. From the customer’s perspective, it’s precisely the reverse.

Right now, the insurer sets the rules. It collects background information on applicants and then varies the price and availability of insurance to discriminate against those who are likely to use it. Health-care reform is going to render those practices illegal. An insurer will have to offer insurance at the same price to a diabetic and a triathlete.

But if you remove the individual mandate, you’re caught in the reverse of our current problem: The triathlete doesn’t buy insurance. Fine, you might say. Let the insurer get gamed. They deserve it.

The insurers, however, are not the ones who will be gamed. The sick are. Imagine the triathlete’s expected medical cost for a year is $200 and the diabetic’s cost is $20,000. And imagine we have three more people who are normal risks, and their expected cost in $6,000. If they all purchase coverage, the cost of insurance is $7,640. Let the triathlete walk away and the cost is $9,500. Now, one of the younger folks at normal cost just can’t afford that. He drops out. Now the average cost is $10,600. This prices out the diabetic, so now she’s uninsured. Or maybe it prices out the next normal-cost person, so costs jump to $13,000.

This is called an insurance death spiral. If the people who think they’re healthy now decide to wait until they need insurance to purchase it, the cost increases, which means the next healthiest group leaves, which jacks up costs again, and so forth.

Kill the individual mandate and you’re probably killing the bill, too. The mandate is what keeps average premium costs low, because it keeps healthy people in the insurance pool. It’s why costs have dropped in Massachusetts, not jumped. It’s why every other country with a universal health-care system — be it public or private — uses either a mandate or the tax code.

We all pay for education through taxes, and everyone gets to go to school.  We all pay for health care, and _______________________.  I bet you can fill in the rest.

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