I recently engaged in a discussion about this claim that 50 million people in the United States do not have health insurance. It wasn't so much about how true this worn out bumper sticker of a political saying is, but its validity and helpfulness in the debate about the health care system in the United States. As most bumper stickers do, it overly simplifies the situation and raises up strong feelings in people who see it.
The implication becomes that 50 million people are dying in the streets for lack of medical attention. This is not true, as there is a law that requires health care institutions to treat people with life threatening conditions. Now, of course, this does not mean that those people working under that situation get terrific medical care, but they are not dying in the street. Further, the law is an unfunded mandate, leaving health care providers giving care without hope of full compensation.
Some choose not to carry insurance for whatever reason. Some are just willing to toss the dice. Some do not trust the medical system, so they just stay away. Some are wealthy enough that they can, for all practical purposes, self insure, with a special health savings account.
Some have insurance, but with absurdly high deductibles, that cover almost no preventative care. $5000 is a hard number to reach without a hospital stay. How "insured" are those folks? So you see, this statement about how many uninsured there are only serves to inflame the passions of the "sides"--something that is completely unhelpful in formulating a solution to the problem of the dysfunctional health care system.
Yes, the system is still a problem. The awkward, overly complicated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in the spring of 2010 is not the answer. Despite its 2000 page bulk, it is not complete due to the compromises it contains. It does not address tort reform. It really doesn't aggressively demand an accounting of the charges that health care providers put on their bills. It is an uncomfortable amalgamation of public stick and private sector for profit service. It is the first program that required participation and a payment--thus the Supreme Court's tortured ruling that it is a tax.
Employment and the middle east have emerged as the issues driving the presidential campaign thus far and health care reform has been shoved aside. After the election, when the dust has mostly settled, the nation and the occupant of the White House will wake up and realize that this legislation has been implemented in its many pieces. What will that mean to our nation and our nation's finances then?
Talking in bumper stickers does not help us now, and it will not help us then. So let's drop the cliches. All they do is engage feelings, not thinking.
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