Fall 2009

Health Care Reform

The Obama Administration’s NCLB?

Elizabeth Ross

My father was a brilliant man when it came to his work. After he retired, the company he worked for hired two engineers to take his place – and they still didn’t manage to do it. However, when it came to fixing a lamp in our living room, he ended up totally rewiring it. When it still didn’t work, I checked the condition of the light bulb socket and discovered it was extremely dirty. After some quick cleaning with some cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol, it worked fine. My mother’s response to the situation was to complain yet again about my father taking the long way around.

The problem was that my systems analyst father was too quick to leap to fixing something that wasn’t broken. He immediately assumed that something that needed minor repairs really needed a complete overhaul. I was reminded of this when Bush introduced NCLB, and am drawn to this story again with Obama’s plans for health care reform.

Both the Obama administration and the special interest groups today are buffaloing the public. One is acting like my father, seeking the hardest – and probably most expensive – route to solve a problem. The other is like my mother, failing to admit that there’s a problem at all. The best result as I can see it would be for the public to try to find the middle ground. Instead of blindly reacting to either side, we need to examine the situation and speak out.

Insurance rates are too high, and have been increasing far beyond the wage increases of the public. The root of this problem is in the structure of the insurance industry. Considering health insurance as a profit-making business is the problem. Profits should be the last concern of any company that provides the means for the public to obtain health care.

Health care facilities seeking to make a profit are also a problem. Breaking even should be the goal. Our current economic situation is proof that the pursuit of the almighty dollar with no concern for the future is a recipe for disaster. This is particularly true in health care.

Pharmaceutical companies spending far too much for drug approval and promotions is another problem. Part of the solution to this problem is firmly in the hands of the government already.

Tort reform has been a hot-button issue from time to time, and it is surprising to me that it hasn’t been brought up now. High insurance rates are also a problem for health care providers, and malpractice lawsuits are part of the equation.

Beyond anything being said now by the media, politicians, and special interest groups, there are solutions that are not as frightening as many would like to make the public think. A program that could solve many of the ills could include insurance groups based on place of residence, radically increasing the public’s buying power in the private insurance industry. Placing earning caps on health care facilities with special investment programs for facility improvements would help lower costs. Automatic FDA approval for drugs accepted in countries with reasonably similar standards and promotional budget limitations would ease prescription costs. Setting caps on malpractice settlements, creating high penalties for frivolous lawsuits, and creating large insurance groups for health care providers purchasing malpractice insurance would help lower health care costs as well.

Our current system is not totally broken and starting from scratch is an extreme we cannot afford. States already subcontract many health care insurance programs to private companies with success. Increased use of that sort of system is not universal health care, but would make it possible to radically decrease the number of uninsured citizens. The bottom line is that the American people need to change their perception. If we don’t stop thinking of health care as a profit-making business, health care reform will be just as successful as NCLB. Then we can free up more real estate that used to be health care facilities, just like we’ve boarded up schools.