Needed A Cure for Americas Ailing Health Care System

By Jim Pavia

Aug. 13, 2008

Ask your clients what keeps them awake at night, and I bet many will say the skyrocketing cost of health care.

That is why the first order of business for the next president of the United States is to fix the health care system.

We are all aware that fiscal stimuli are needed to revive the economy, and it has been well documented that the next president will face this nation’s first trillion-dollar deficit.

Nonetheless, health care reform comes first.

No matter who resides in the White House in January, the health care crisis must be resolved.

If it isn’t, the American standard of living will decline as workers and households continue to pay for health insurance through lower wages and higher costs.

Clearly, Americans can’t continue to handle the inefficiencies of health care. They deserve changes in the system that will reduce cost, improve quality and ensure access to health care.

To that point, about 20 percent of respondents in a 2007 survey of 18,000 people said they had put off or had gone without needed medical treatment at some point during the year because of concerns about costs. While the uninsured reported the highest rate of delaying treatment, a significant number of people with health insurance also delayed necessary care.

That is alarming information.

Also alarming is that 47 million Americans—nearly 16 percent of the population—have no health insurance. Meanwhile, U.S. health care spending is expected to nearly double by 2017, reaching $4.8 trillion and consuming 19.5 percent of the gross domestic product (four times the defense budget).

The health care system isn’t sustainable, and therefore, it isn’t surprising that in many surveys, voters have identified health care as the leading domestic issue for the government to address and for the presidential candidates to discuss in the campaign.

Voters of course have the right to hear the candidates’ positions on reducing the cost of health care and health insurance, and expanding coverage to those millions of uninsured Americans.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, thinks that controlling costs is key to making health care more affordable, saving Medicare and Medicaid, and protecting health benefits for retirees. He sets three primary goals: paying only for quality care, offering diverse insurance choices responsive to individual needs, and restoring a sense of personal responsibility.

McCain advocates market solutions such as allowing companies to provide insurance nationwide.

He thinks that individuals should have a variety of plans from which to choose and would offer tax credits and health savings accounts to help pay for them.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has proposed a universal health plan that would provide coverage to every American, through both public and private means. His plan would mandate that all children have health care coverage.

Those who have insurance through their employers or who qualify for Medicaid or the state children’s insurance programs would be able to keep that coverage.

For others, Obama would create a public insurance program. People couldn’t be turned away because of illness or pre-existing conditions.

Both plans need to be critically reviewed.

Incremental reform will fail to address the problem. An overhaul of the system is needed, and that means identifying solid ideas for meaningful and long-lasting reforms.

Perhaps the answer is a compromise.

A recent study by some health care professionals outlined the benefits of universal health care. However, the study also recognized that much of the economic success that the United States has enjoyed is attributed to a free-enterprise system.

Therefore, the study suggested, marrying these two seemingly disparate concepts will be critical to solving the ills of health care.

McCain and Obama: Are you paying attention?

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