With all the hullabaloo about healthcare from politicians recently, I thought it was time to dust off my typewriter. I claim some knowledge and experience in this area, having practiced medicine for 40 years. I am also board-certified in two medical specialties and have two master’s degrees.
None of that implies that my beliefs are correct, but it might mean that I can write intelligently about the topic with the intent to provoke thought and further research on the part of the reader. If healthcare is important to you, please don’t believe everything you hear or read. Do your homework!
As much as I would like to make this a nonpartisan discussion, it should be obvious that is not possible. The Republican party has been pretty much against any government participation in healthcare since before Ronald Reagan spoke about the loss of freedom Americans would experience if Medicare were implemented.
When Medicare turned out to be popular, it became difficult to argue that it should be repealed. Nevertheless, that still seems to be a common, if unexpressed, sentiment among present-day Republicans.
For now, suffice it to say that the Republican party has no place in a discussion about “fixing” healthcare in our country. They have proposed nothing of substance. Perhaps that will change in the near future, but as of now, if you believe that healthcare reform is needed, the Republican party isn’t going to be the one to do it. Therefore, this discussion will involve topics that will occupy the Democratic debates and platform.
Why do we even need healthcare reform? Two simple reasons: to control costs that are spiraling out of control and to provide healthcare to those who do not have access. The latter reason is pretty much unique to the United States because every other country has managed to provide healthcare to all of its citizens. Cost control is a problem; however, that all countries face. None has been totally successful, but most have equal or better healthcare at about half the cost.
Please do not fall prey to all the specious arguments about long waiting times, etc. that are starting to pop up in ads about how awful care is in other countries that have universal coverage. People in Canada, for example, give their healthcare higher marks than we do in this country.
Is it perfect? No! Is it better than here? Well, it does cover everyone, and it costs much less, so it has some things going for it. Likewise, silly slogans like “Socialized Medicine” rely on lies to distort and oversimplify the problem. Socialism means government control of the means of production. No one has proposed that our government own all the hospitals and employ all the doctors and other healthcare workers.
Don’t be fooled. The problems are complex and solutions will not be simple, but some of the reasoning may be straightforward.
With this as an introduction, I will try to map a rational path to healthcare reform over the next few weeks. As always, I will be happy to debate this topic in any public forum and I will respond to questions or disagreements as space allows. Just to be clear: the views expressed in my columns are mine alone and not those of the publishers of the Town Crier.