Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Healthcare Diagnostics

If you read my columns, you know I favor single-payer health insurance, which is to say, government run insurance. Getting that from Congress would have been a major benefit to the American people. I see no downside to universal single-payer insurance. In addition, I would like to try a health care services system run by the government (state or federal). Even though I see some potential downside to that. But as anyone who has experienced our private, profit-motivated system, there is a lot more downside to the current system. Doctors recommending unnecessary procedures or branded drugs when effective generics are available are just two examples. Hospitals buying expensive capital equipment, then running patients through it whether they need it or not, is another. Just plain incompetence being covered up by colleagues - probably get that in a government system too.

In any medical system you will have human error. Diagnostics can be tricky; some times the most probable explanation for a set of symptoms turns out to be wrong. A good system would minimize human error and diagnostic error, but would not be able to eliminate them.

But what of the new health care bill [H.R. 3590] signed into law by the chief administrator of this nation on Tuesday, March 23, 2010?

Frankly, no one can be sure what its real effects will be. Most of its provisions don't come into effect until 2014. That means there are two elections between now and when it takes effect, so it could be changed or even deleted from the books.

One could also see this as a first step towards a government-run insurance system or health care system. I doubt that is the case. The public option was dropped. Supervision of the insurance companies by the government will be minimal. We will all still be at the mercy of the "free market." Imagine an outdoor market. Now imagine there are no police there, and half the people walking around, and three quarters of them behind the stalls, are thieves or con artists. There you have a good picture of the "free market" in health care services and insurance.

The thieves are not having their hands cut off for past practices, but at least they are being told that certain forms of theft are no longer acceptable. You can't drop someone who has been paying insurance just because they get an expensive illness. Why was that ever allowed? Isn't it just plain fraud to sell insurance that you have no intent to pay on?

It should be easier to find and transfer insurance under the plan. The pre-existing condition redlines should go away.

I worry about the idea of forcing people to have insurance. I suppose it is not so very different than forcing them to have a birth certificate, social security number, and a drivers license, and automobile insurance. But forcing people to buy from private, unregulated insurers seems like the government is just helping herd the sheep towards the wolves.

I have not read the bill, and don't intend to. Often what appears to be plain language in bills turns out to be an excuse for a special interest group to rape and pillage.

In 2014, those of us who are still alive can see what actually happens. We can get mad or be glad. In the meantime, let's get the hell out of Afghanistan, and close all of our military bases overseas. We need the money that is wasted on them here at home.

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