I spent a good deal of time over the last year or so reading up on healthcare and healthcare policy. I came to the conclusion that the best way to reform healthcare is to have the government pay for it: universal healthcare. This is the only way that I have found through which we will be able to deliver cost effective, high quality healthcare.
I've mentioned universal healthcare on my radio show (880 AM, WPEK, Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.) and on my blog (www.whereistheoutrage.net) on numerous occasions. The most frequent comments I've come across are that we're just making a big government bigger, that government isn't the solution but is the problem (a famous Reagan quote that has been parroted a billion times) and simply that government can't do anything right (Iraq, Social Security and Katrina, to name a few). All I can do is smile when I see these comments.
The United States government is us, Americans. The United States government hasn't been taken over by outer space aliens or by the Russians. If the government is inefficient, it is because we want the government to be inefficient. If we want the government to work correctly, we need to demand that. We need to pressure our politicians to spend our money wisely and vigorously oppose building bridges to nowhere. If you are upset that we're spending $900 for a toilet seat in the Pentagon, then you need to write your congressman (all politicians respond to pressure).
For some reason, the idea that the private sector is somehow more efficient and more effective than the government has been perpetuated throughout American society. I completely reject this notion. Here are a few examples of private sector efficiency. Twelve of our brave soldiers have died by electrocution while taking a shower because of faulty wiring privately contracted by Kellogg, Brown and Root. The computer giant Microsoft outsources a lot of its code writing, which may account for a lot of the problems we're seeing in Microsoft Vista. Many Vista users had to completely wipe their hard drives and reinstall Vista in order to install Service Pack 1, which was designed to fix all the bugs in the original release. The whole process took between three and six hours. As published in the Washington Post, the Senate Commerce Committee released a report explicitly stating that, "...insurers go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for sick people, use deliberately incomprehensible documents to mislead customers about their benefits, and sell 'junk' policies that do not cover needed care." Just last week, according to an operator at Charter Communications, Internet service went down for all of North and South Carolina. Where is this model of efficiency that the private sector is supposed to be?
Here's how to get this done:
- Let's roll Medicare and Medicaid into universal healthcare. Take out the same payroll taxes.
- Eliminate private insurance (private citizens can always buy private insurance on their own). This saves over $700 billion and will allow us to cover the 46 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
- The government can control costs by negotiating drug prices.
- Primary practitioners should be paid to take care of a population of patients. Those practitioners who do an outstanding job (controlling major diseases like hypertension, diabetes and congestive heart failure) should be paid bonuses.
- Let's develop some sort of arbitration system to bring down medical liability costs.
- Americans will still be able to choose their own doctors and hospitals.
- Finally, let's give tax breaks to large medical practices that open early and stay open late and on weekends to improve healthcare access. Patients shouldn't have to take off from work to see their doctor.
If we truly want to control costs, this is how we do it.