Wednesday, February 07, 2007

John Edwards' Health Plan

Since my health insurance premium has raised to $589 per month for a policy with $2,000 deductible with no prescription med coverage, I've been thinking about universal health coverage quite a bit lately.

When I was in the hospital doing chemo some years back, my roommate was having treatment for a rare form of cancer. Her husband was a farmer and she worked part-time, so they had no health insurance. She said she did not know how they were going to pay the medical bills, she guessed they'd have to sell a cow. I imagine they wound up declaring medical bankruptcy.

Two of my acquaintances have had burst appendix events in the last couple of years. Both were uninsured for different reasons, and both declared bankruptcy. Both of these guys are conservative Republican voters. Go figure.

So who paid for their medical expenses? I guess I did. I'm the one who scraped up the money to pay insurance premiums for the last thirty years. Or more probably, you, the taxpayer paid the bill. I know several people who go to the emergency room for all their medical needs--sore throat, poison ivy, whatever ails them and never pay the bill. Hospitals either charge more to those who pay, or get some kind of reimbursement from MedicAid programs.

My sister was fired from her job in the middle of treatment for breast cancer, and as a result she lost her insurance coverage. The hospital helped her apply for MedicAid which paid for her three surgeries and chemo.

My point is, none of this makes sense. Recently, someone wrote "what if we didn't have universal police service"? (Sorry I can't remember the source on this). Things would pretty much dissolve into chaos. I live in the city where we have univeral fire service, but I have lived in a rural area where you had to pay a fee to be assured of fire protection. Those who didn't pay were just SOL.

John Edwards has proposed a health insurance plan that will be financed by a tax hike:

From Reuters:

"We'll have to raise taxes. The only way you can pay for a healthcare plan that cost anywhere from $90 to $120 billion is there has to be a revenue source," Edwards said on NBC's Meet the Press news program.

Newshog has an interesting take on universal health care. He is critical of Edwards' plan (See John, See John Run)and supports the view of Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a study author and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard, who noted: "We pay the world's highest health care taxes. But much of the money is squandered. The wealthy get tax breaks. And HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits at the taxpayers' expense. But politicians claim we can't afford universal coverage. Every other developed nation has national health insurance. We already pay for it, but we don't get it."

Links to a couple of his posts on health care are below.

The Great Divide: Public Vs. Private Healthcare: Part I
The Great Divide: Part II

I think he does a good job of dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions we have about how universal health care works in the UK, and how we could craft a plan in the US that would avoid some of the mistakes made there.

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