I believe that before the end of the year, Congress will adopt a comprehensive national health plan, and President Obama will sign it into law.
In the last week, I have seen the media quote cost figures for how much America currently spends on healthcare, ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent of our gross national product.
About 10 months ago, I was in the hospital for a skin graft on my left foot needed to close a wound resulting from the removal of two skin cancers on my leg. I was hospitalized — off my feet — for 10 days. The bill for this care was $78,852, which included basic hospitalization, medical supplies, lab services, operating room services, etc.
The entire amount was paid by my insurance, except for $5,250, an extra charge for a having private room. I think that there is something irrational about such a huge cost — and it did not include physicians' fees, nor have I received any bills from physicians.
This commentary is about providing good medical care to all of our citizens at an affordable price. If someone could explain to me why it costs $78,852 for 10 days of hospital care — doctors' fees not included — I'll give them a Cuban cigar, which I think will be shortly available. But only to the first acceptable responder, with me making an unappealable choice from all the responses received.
The New York Times on June 9 reported that, "Nationally, according to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, Medicare spent an average of $8,304 per beneficiary in 2006. Among states, New York was tops, at $9,564 and Hawaii was lowest, at $5,311."
I am not a Medicare patient, although at age 84, I am Medicare covered, because I am still actively engaged in making a living, as they say, paying income taxes on earned income, and covered by private insurance, employer provided. But being a partner in a law firm, Bryan Cave LLP, the premiums are paid by the partners, not some munificent company or corporation.
An article in The New York Times on June 15 reported, “In closed-door talks, Mr. Obama has been making the case that reducing malpractice lawsuits — a goal of many doctors and Republicans — can help drive down health care costs, and should be considered as part of any health care overhaul, according to lawmakers of both parties, as well as A.M.A. officials.” I agree with the president.
The Times reported, “It is a position that could hurt Mr. Obama with the left wing of his party and with trial lawyers who are major donors to Democratic campaigns.” But it could also gain for the president the support of the far larger middle to which most Democrats and Republicans belong.
Historically, the trial lawyers in the United States have supported Democratic congressional and senatorial candidates and the Democratic Party has supported the trial lawyers by opposing limits on punitive damage awards which sometimes are many times the primary award for damages, so to speak, to teach the defendant a lesson.
Seeking to cap awards in punitive damage situations or malpractice cases, usually medical malpractice cases, has traditionally been opposed by Democrats.
The latter awards are believed by many to have driven up the premiums for malpractice insurance, which in turn has caused many doctors to leave particular fields of medicine such as obstetrics.
I support, in the various options now being considered by Congress, the plan that would allow the citizenry to continue to choose a private insurance carrier, while at the same time, having a non-profit government-created institution like Medicare available as an alternative.
The government entity should be a true competitor, with no subsidies, other than those provided to private insurance carriers.
Insurance companies need real competition to keep them honest, in the sense of providing the best coverage at the most affordable prices.
Those who prate in opposition that such a healthcare system would be socialism are foolish.
We are the only country in the industrial world without national comprehensive medical care. In Europe and Canada, no party, no matter how conservative, urges the end of the national medical coverage plan adopted in that country.
Of course, some of the plans could be improved upon. Some countries have only a single payer — the government — providing coverage.
Our Congress is now considering what we should have.
My suggestion is that whatever the congressional committees conclude is the best plan be presented to the Congress on what they call a fast track, and voted up or down, or allow a few amendments on major issues.
We have taken too long to get to this point, but we have arrived. I believe the day when Americans can sleep easier because their medical needs will be covered, and they won't have to delay going to the doctor, is fast upon us. Hallelujah!
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