Raising Women’s Voices

America desperately needs a national health care program.

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on October 24, 2008

By Bob Caylor

The News-Sentinel
Fri. Oct. 17, 2008

Even a few years ago, a Fort Wayne physician laying out an impassioned argument for national health insurance – at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, no less – might have seemed like an elaborate put-on.

Dr. Jonathan Walker, a retinal surgeon, wasn’t kidding anyone. In his own highly specialized practice, he sees a toll in people with disabilities and avoidable catastrophic expenses, and he knows that it’s only a minuscule fraction of the human suffering and economic damage caused by tens of millions of Americans lacking health insurance.

As he began his talk Thursday before an audience of about 40 people, he said that the provisions for the uninsured – the network of hospitals and clinics providing charity care – too often fails. “The safety net is full of holes. That’s why they call it a net,” he said.

“America is the only developed country where you have to worry about getting sick and going bankrupt,” Walker said. “You are only one diagnosis away from bankruptcy, from loss of access to health care.”

Not having a system of national health insurance causes thousands of unnecessary deaths a year, he said. That’s only the beginning of the impact. Paying for the uninsured through uncompensated emergency care raises prices for everyone else. Paying excessive health-care costs puts American companies at a financial disadvantage in competing with many foreign companies.

Walker acknowledged that many factors contribute to Americans spending more on health care, per capita, than any other developed country, but he focused on two factors: private, for-profit health insurance and drug companies.

He cited a 2003 analysis that found 31 percent of total health-care spending went to “layer after layer of administration.”

“It just creates this strange, bizarre system where all we’re doing is filling out paperwork,” Walker said.

He said that through the American approach to health care, “we get quadruple-dipped:”

  • We pay for the poorest and sickest people through Medicaid
  • We pay for the uninsured
  • We pay our own co-pays and deductibles
  • We pay for private insurance

Walker did not advocate a particular program of national health insurance. His talk, sponsored by the Fort Wayne Medical Society, was the first of four planned in the next six months or so, said Dr. Steve Smith, who introduced Walker. The point of the series, Smith said, is “to prepare this community … for probably what will be the certainty of health-care reform sometime this next year.”

Walker’s case certainly didn’t go unchallenged.

One listener said 55 percent of all medical care is necessary because of “stress, weight or substance abuse” – factors individuals can control on their own. (One of the later programs in this medical society series will be devoted to the impact of such risk factors on health care.)

Another suggested that requiring mandatory private health insurance, just as carrying automobile insurance is mandatory, would alleviate many of the problems.

To view the article, click here.


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