Health care is an inalienable right
By Lawrence Fiarman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 18, 2009, 00:28

Health care reform? Health insurance reform? Single payer? Death panels! It can all be so confusing, because no one is speaking plainly enough about the two basic issues.

So let�s start with the first basic issue. Should the government be involved in health care at all?

That�s as basic as why we have the government we do. The first words of the framers of our constitution tell the many reasons we started this government. Not only did they wish to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty. They wanted to promote the general welfare, too. The government they created for us would have a concern for the general wellbeing of the populace, unlike almost all that preceded it in world history. Who are we today to turn away from this somber responsibility etched into our constitution?

By the time of our first president, there was no real health care. People at that time were just beginning to understand about germs and to wash their hands and instruments before surgery.

As we learned more about the science of medicine and medicines, the treatment of diseases became more successful. But, because medical treatments are so expensive, not everyone has access to them. The great expenses of medical treatments lead us to seek health care insurance to help cover those high costs. As medical expenses continued to rise, the cost of health care insurance grew. Today, many cannot afford even the cost of the insurance designed to offset the much higher cost of health care.

Those who can afford health insurance can lose it and never get it back. Lose your job, lose your health insurance. Get a new job, but maybe not new insurance because of your pre-existing condition that no insurer will take on. If private enterprise creates a situation that harms the general welfare, the government must step in.

So we�re left with the health care haves and have nots. Should we continue to be content with ourselves for that? We are the Americans. That�s not our way. Here all men and women are created equal, �with certain unalienable rights.� Now is the time to recognize that equal health care for all citizens is one of those rights precisely because it is fundamental to �Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.� Thomas Jefferson did not know about modern medicine, but he knew �that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.� It�s time to recognize that for this generation and in the future, health care is another inalienable right.

But it�s expensive to pay for this right for everyone. So we must deal with the second basic issue. Where will the money come from?

Huge fortunes are being made providing health care today. To reduce the cost of health care, so that health care insurance is affordable once again, we must reduce the fortunes made in the health care system. We can pay for expanded health care coverage for those who have none and for those who have too little, with some of those huge fortunes. That means utilizing some of the profits made by hospitals, drug companies and the health insurance companies.

Most hospitals are organized as a charity; they are �not for profit.� That means they do not pay taxes. They give a small percent of their profit to charity and keep the rest. How much do they give away to keep their rating as a charity? About a dime on each dollar of profit, give or take a nickel. How do they give it to charity? Mostly they write off inflated bills they tried to collect from people who couldn�t pay because they had no health insurance. Let all hospitals pay business taxes. Their profits would be taxed at three dimes and a nickel per dollar of profit as every corporation is taxed. Those taxes would go a long way to fund the cost of providing health insurance for those who do not have any at all.

Hospitals will not be eager to be taxed like the businesses they are. They�ll fight hard to protect their profits. They�ll say good things about themselves and awful things about those who want to take some of their profit. They�ll tell you exactly how many millions of dollars they �donate� to charity. .Don�t be fooled. Pay attention and you�ll see all the millions they give do not come close to three dimes and nickel per dollar of profit. They�re a couple dimes short.

They want that money for themselves. They�ll fight hard and dirty for it. Their charity begins with themselves. For the greatest public good, greed has to be limited.

Now for the health insurance companies. They are funding the fight against a government run health care option, the so called single-payer option, because they want to protect their huge profits. That�s it. There are no other reasons at all. They hire people to say things that are false. Almost all Western nations have some form of government provided health system. You�ve heard about the long waits for treatment there. That�s false. It�s made up. You�ve heard about not being able to choose your doctors there. That�s false, too. People in those nations are actually very satisfied with their health care. Oh sure, you�ll find a small number of people dissatisfied or who are willing to be paid to say they are dissatisfied, but the honest picture is that all but one or two out of ten thousand are satisfied. And they all can leave their employer or lose their job without losing health coverage.

Why are these lies spread? They�re not motivated by a deep philosophical belief that the government shouldn�t be involved in health care. It�s from a deep philosophical worship of profit. The health insurance industry is Scrooge before the ghosts visited. Show them the ghosts. Let them compete with someone finally -- the government. You don�t think that would be a fair competition? Well, private universities compete every day with public ones and both are fine. The health insurance companies will adjust. They may evolve to compete on other factors besides price alone, such as on luxury, customer service, innovation or rate of successful outcomes. Good, bring on the competition.

Hospitals, health insurance companies and drug companies think the profits they make is �their� money, but it�s really the public�s money being spent on health care. The public�s money should be directed where the public wants it to go. Make it go for the good of the public at large and not exclusively for the good of a hospital or insurance company.

Still think the government shouldn�t provide health insurance? What about Medicare? That seems to be doing just what it was intended to do. And its costs are lower than any private health insurance company�s. Does Medicare ever make outrageous decisions about coverage? Yes, and they should be ashamed of themselves, but the worst stories are from the outrageous decisions health insurance companies make. They should be mortified. We have death panels today. Just listen to real people tell real horror stories about how a health insurance company sentenced a family member to death by reason of a �pre-existing condition,� �experimental procedure,� or �low success rate treatment.�

True health care reform will turn the tables on today�s existing death panels at health insurance companies by making the individuals who make the decision to withhold life saving treatments personally liable for wrongful death litigation. Hey, the insurance industry will love it. A whole new market will arise to sell wrongful death liability insurance to employees whose job it is to withhold health care. The cost of it will be the death of death panels. It�s all part of the nature of insurance.

Lawrence Fiarman is a freelance writer and former columnist for the local newspaper in his Midwestern hometown.

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