Health Services and "Rationing": A Progressive View
by Phil E. Benjamin
Last Saturday's NY Times had two letters to the editor that are worth noting.
The first was from Virginia. The writer said that the better conversation concerning health care would be health services and not buying and using health insurance.
Sounds simple, right. Well, that is what basic Medicare is. Our government, since 1965, pays most of the cost for most of the health services for hospital and doctors visits for people over 65 years old. True it is a reimbursement system. That is, hospitals and doctors are reimbursed for their services.
In most of Europe where the hospitals are government administered and run and doctors are either on salary [like in Great Britain] or accept a fee schedule for their services as in the rest of Europe, the aim is delivering services, not finding some insurance plan through which to gain services.
That insurance company step costs the health care system billions of dollars every year. It costs the federal government and individuals billions, that is.
Simple said, it puts the market system and profits ahead of health services.
The writer says, "Actually, I don't understand why America is still talking about providing all of its people with health insurance, as opposed to providing them with health services. Health care is a necessity of life, like education and food."
That system would be called socialized medicine as it is practices in Great Britain. The system socializes medical need and removes it from the clutches of profiteers. It almost sounds like the moral and ethical thing to do.
The Josephine Butler National Health Service Act has been introduced, initially by Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, since the late 1970s; and when he retired [he is now the mayor of Oakland, CA]; Barbara Lee has introduced it. That simple piece of legislation would give us exactly what happens in Great Britain. HR 3000 will be its number.
It deserves support and great attention.
Who Does the Rationing?
In another letter from a Californian physician, the writer questions the use of rationing as a way to attacking any government program. Market based health policy people often use the rationing argument to get people to fear and be against a government run program. He says, "Health care is already being rationed. Major health care decisions are already being made every day by insurance companies, not doctors."
He continues: "Any health care provider can tell you about the inordinate amount of time and energy we spend fighting for our patients to get the care that they need and deserve. This result in less physician time with patients, reduced quality of care, increased health care costs for everyone, and – no accident – increased profits for insurance companies' executives and shareholders. ….. shouldn't we be discussing the rationing that for-profit insurance companies do in order to maximize their own bottom?"
Sometimes it is the simple thoughts that cut through the reams of paper and discussions.
Stay Tuned; and, Keep Struggling