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Health Care System is Good, Far From Best

September 22, 2017
Shepherdstown Chronicle

Even though our health care system is inaccessible to millions of Americans, some of our politicians call it the best health care system in the world. That's like saying that a 5-star restaurant is proof that the US is well-fed, even though most of the country can't afford to eat there without government assistance.

If food was sold in the same way that medical care is provided, a trip to the grocery store would require a membership card. The magnetic stripe would be coded at the door, after which you could grab a jumbo cart and start filling it with delicacies as you peruse the aisles. You don't need to look at the prices on the shelves: that's not what you'll be paying. That's just an inflated number that the wholesaler sets as the value of what they charged the store.

At the checkout line, the cashier adds up all the items you've bought, but then charges you, the member, just a small fraction of the total purchase - generally only 20 percent. The other 80 percent is paid by your membership. You qualify for drastically lower prices because your employer enrolled you into a club for medical care, or Club Med. The dues (called insurance premiums) are deducted from your taxable income, and your employer does the same, as expenses. The Club can set prices as high as it wants, because the member will still be able to afford the food at any cost, thanks to those gigantic discounts.

But if you can't qualify for a membership because your employer doesn't provide you the Club Med card, or if you are self-employed, underemployed, or unemployed, you can still enter the grocery store, but you will be paying the prices listed on the shelves. When you get to the checkout line, there is no discount, no co-pay, no lifetime out-of-pocket deductible limit for you. You'll have to buy the food at the shelf prices that are set by the wholesaler and grocer. The result is that the food is now too expensive for you to buy: you'll have the choice to buy the food at full price, or not at all. The register will not re-calculate your cart full of purchases into a pocket-sized payment that will leave money in your wallet. Your only recourse is to ask the government for aid - Medicaid.

Now that we've taken 'stock' of the present system, the most unpopular, least complicated, never mentioned, 'Free-Market' solution would be to take government completely out of Health Care and Medical Insurance. Either make everyone a member of the subsidized Club-Med - or no one. The next round of protesting would come from, well, everyone. A truly private health care system would require a massive re-structuring of costs, tax codes, and profits not only for the corporate world, but also for the health care providers who deserve quality pay for the difficult job of taking care of us, often while we are having the worst days of our lives.

While many question global warming and evolution, most accept on faith that a surgeon can reach into our chest cavity and replace our dying heart with that of another once-living human being, should we need it. We also know that it would be impossible for most people to pay that bill on their own. Asking politicians to figure out how to create a high-tech health care system that shares costs begs the question: which is more complicated - advancing the technology of medical care, or creating a way to access that care within an economical standard of fairness?

We have the science and the resources to do both, but evidently not the heart.

Carol Williams

Berkeley County

 
 
 

 

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