Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stop the Abuse: Guarantee health care for all who need it

Today BlogCatalog is sponsoring the Blogging for a Great Cause Challenge in which members virtually unite to post against abuse in its various forms. I'm always happy to participate in collective action, especially when the rules are ambiguous enough to allow me some creative freedom.

It may seem an odd choice to some, but the type of abuse I'm going to write about is the political refusal of our elected officials to fix our broken health care system. I've been very active in working for health care reform the past few years, and despite repeated and increasingly louder calls for our so-called leaders to address this crisis, the number of uninsured in this country has gone up not down.

The problem also affects many Americans who think their health care is covered by an insurance plan only to discover in the fine print the many exclusions that come with affordable policies. Once again this year I'm volunteering with a group of friends who are trying to raise money for someone we know who can't pay medical expenses, and her story will be familiar to many of you. She had insurance but got sick and lost her job because she she couldn't return to work before her medical leave ran out. Now she is without insurance and a job, and in that already difficult situation must deal with the mounting expenses from the treatment she has to have just to survive.

In every other industrial country around the world, a minimum level of health care (not insurance, but actual care) is guaranteed to all residents. America's for-profit, employer-based system of health care doesn't work, yet we stick with it because the insurance companies have enough lobbying power to throw roadblocks up whenever anyone proposes real change.

When our politicians do offer solutions, they are either partial fixes that cover small segments of the uninsured (and even these meet tremendous resistance, see Dems Seek Strong Vote for Health Program from the Associated Press as one recent example), or they are convoluted proposals that try to preserve the current system while foisting a bigger share of the costs onto taxpayers.

I'm sure the politicians will blame the poverty of their purses, but the fact is we as a country have come up with $600 Billion so far to pay for George W's misadventures in the Middle East, with another $190 Billion requested for next year's budget (see the MSNBC story). If we truly want to see this problem fixed, we can find the funding; we just need to adjust our priorities.

We pride ourselves as a country on our ability to innovate, yet we continue to stick with a deeply flawed and outdated system for delivering health care. If the whole of Western Europe can figure out a way to make sure their people have quality affordable health care, our government's refusal to do so is nothing more than willful abuse of power.

There are a number of organizations working very hard to offer thoughtful solutions. Physicians for a National Health Program is a group for which I have a lot of respect, and they've crafted a very detailed proposal for instituting nationalized health care in the United States, but that's just one idea. There are a few dozen existing systems from around the world that we can use as a model. We can even treat it like an open source software project and pick and choose features from among them to create a unique plan of our own. Let's get past the propaganda and solve this crisis today.
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