Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Till Sickness Comes

Without healthy, educated individuals, there cannot be a healthy, educated society. Moreover, without the ability to defend that society, there cannot be a strong nation. These are the main issues that should occupy the forefront of any national policy-making. Education and national defense are frequent topics of debate, while health care consistently wavers and lags behind until politically fashionable.

The problem with health care is not the care part. The majority of medical professionals are dedicated in their jobs to treat patients, and they do it well because that is what they have trained to do. Like in anything, one gets what one pays for. That is the problem – paying for it. The cost of many health-related services have soared in recent years, with trillions of dollars paid annually for insurance, doctor visits, hospital stays and medicines. Staying healthy – and getting the care when otherwise – costs money, but it should not cost an arm and a leg.

There is also the bureaucracy, which has created an inefficient system of poor management and excessive costs. Buried in paperwork and regulations, patients face a myriad of obstacles from the varied individuals and entities, with enrollment rules just as diverse, that comprise the health care system. A multitude of insurance plans, each with their own rules on coverage and eligibility, forces providers and patients alike to determine coverage for particular services. As such, individual insurers erect administrative barriers that discourage some from even making a claim. Administrative fees and overhead alone from this complex and fragmented structure has been a main cause of increased spending over the years. The situation only worsens once the bill is itemized and tallied.

According to the latest data, the majority of Americans have health insurance, either through their employer or self-purchased. For those under- or uninsured – the elderly, disabled and the poor – there are programs that provide public funding for medical services. Federal law also requires access to emergency services for all regardless of one's ability to pay. Even so, those without health insurance are expected to personally pay for services if they do not qualify for financial assistance – and numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that approximately 45 million people, or 15% of the population, are currently uninsured, a slight rise in recent years. A number of polls show that 70% of those surveyed feel the federal government, as part of its responsibility toward its citizens, should ensure that all Americans have universal health care coverage.

Solving the health care debate means simplifying its dysfunctionally convoluted administration, lowering its cost and, most importantly, making it available to everyone. The health of the nation depends on it.

©2007 Steve Sagarra

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