Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Imagine Having Universal Healthcare Coverage

Imagine Having Universal Healthcare Coverage

Each American citizen is a fragile human being who is susceptible to illness, disease, and accidental injury. Unlike broken automobiles or washing machines, we are complex psychological and spiritual entities. Navigating through our nation's complicated health care system, we are often made to feel like cogs in an ever-moving wheel that will likely run us over if we stop to ask too many questions. Millions of needy citizens have avoided seeking health care for serious illnesses, most of which could have been prevented with routine check-ups, all because they fear that they couldn't afford to pay. Too many Americans have filed for bankruptcy as a direct result of overwhelming medical bills that could not be paid.

A new federally mandated health care rule called the Deficit Reduction Act has created barriers to health care for children, the elderly and disabled. In the state of Colorado, anyone applying for Medicaid must now provide either a passport or a birth certificate and driver's license or state-issued photo identification card in order to receive health care under Medicaid. Consider the ludicrous notion of a baby needing a photo ID to be treated for a life-threatening infection or an elderly person in a nursing home who suffers from Alzheimer's disease having to produce a drivers' license (when he hasn't been able to drive for years). Imagine a sick person going without medication because she had to pay the phone bill instead. Then think about the caring healthcare providers who would treat the indigent and receive no reimbursement from the federal government for doing so. Our states will be losing millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. How can we call this "progress"?

When he signed the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) last February with each state having the option of enacting its own version, President Bush said it would "tighten loopholes that allowed people to game the system by transferring assets to their children so they can qualify for Medicaid benefits." The "gamers" he spoke of are actually your middle class parents and grandparents who may have resorted to hiding hard-earned assets for which they worked hard all their lives in order to qualify for Medicaid. Today, they may altogether avoid going into nursing home care that they need because of new restrictions that strip them of not only their economic assets, but worse - their hope and dignity.

What a depressing society we are becoming when you think about the fact that all our elderly population can call their own as they go into a nursing home is their prepaid funeral fund. Is that something we look forward to as we get older? Americans respect their elderly relatives too much to see them enter their last days in such an uncaring public environment. We must call for a change in America's healthcare policy. Instead of making life easier for senior citizens, the government will now more closely scrutinize senior citizens' financial affairs and deny Medicaid benefits to anyone with more than $500,000 of equity in a home. (While the Republicans seek to end the estate tax which shelters and rewards the mega-rich.)

There have been few recommended federal healthcare plans that have been all-inclusive in the scope of coverage provided for citizens. When Americans consider a political leader's healthcare plan and they hear that it will not include coverage for every American, the first thing a citizen will worry about is that they will be one of the people who is going to be left behind. Today, nearly 46 million Americans have no healthcare insurance at all because they don’t have a job or they’re one of the working poor whose boss doesn’t help carry the heavy burden of health insurance costs. Young adults have found themselves left behind. Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 are the largest and fastest growing segment of the U.S. population lacking health insurance, according to a report released this week. Their group makes up 40 percent of the 6 million people who've joined the ranks of the uninsured from 2000 to 2004, some by uninformed choice and some by circumstances beyond their control. Either way, we know there is a better plan out there that would include all Americans and simplify their healthcare choices.

Provided by the federal government, a new healthcare plan could help to supplement incomes and result in a better-organized healthcare system, facilitating the delivery of care at excellent quality and lower costs. It would relieve businesses of one of their biggest economic burdens. It would relieve citizens of worry and anxiety about the high costs of unexpected illnesses and accidental injuries.

It's time to ignite a new healthcare reform movement to cover all Americans. The entire system can be reshaped to focus on disease prevention and possibly include coverage for alternative forms of health practices. It is possible to promote clinical excellence, reduce inefficiency, cover all Americans, and pay less than we do today for coverage. A more caring and creative environment with education that includes training for alternative healthcare treatments might interest and encourage more young Americans to go into the healthcare field. Today, U.S. hospitals have 118,000 vacancies for registered nurses. The federal government predicts the accelerating shortfall of nurses in the United States will swell to more than 800,000 by 2020. It shouldn't be that way, and we could find incentives to recruit new nurses and strengthen nursing programs right here in America rather than taking nurses away from third world countries where they are so desperately needed.

Imagine scrapping the current system that is currently based on cold profiteering and reducing a human being to something that is only material. Imagine starting with a federal healthcare plan that reflects the values of generosity, respect, gratitude, and true caring for all Americans within our economy, from infancy to the twilight years. Why should it be so hard to imagine that kind of progress? If we care for our families and fellow Americans, why not ask for a system that sees us as fully human rather than as lifeless units of profit potential? Profit should never triumph over public need. Let's think about healthcare reform and tell our representatives that we support a change.

Politics, Universal Healthcare