Monday, January 10, 2011

Solutions to Heath Care

If you aren't aware of the problems with our health care system, come out from under your rock and blink your eyes in the harsh light of reality. The problems range from high cost (it's going to bankrupt the country eventually) to inaccessibility (not everyone has it) to quality concerns (I wrote about these here). Ultimately, a good organization to familiarize yourself with is the Commonwealth Fund.

Today, I'm going to detail my health care plan without going too much into the details of why. The data (much of it from the Commonwealth Fund) will come later.

The first part of my plan is a single-payer, government-run health care system (socialized much like Canada's). In Canada, the government acts as a massive insurance company and provides everyone with health care insurance. While Canada does not have the best of single-payer systems (England's is better–it provides actual health care–the government employs the doctors and nurses), I think we can overcome the shortcomings of the Canadian system with the second part of my plan.

But first I want to say a little bit about why we need to move to a Canadian-style system (often referred to as a European-style system). Every other industrialized nation in the world (meaning: besides the United States) has a government-run (socialized) health care system. There is a reason for this: it's better. There is also a reason we don't have it: the people who make money from the status quo are very politically powerful.

Let's detail (again without going into the data... yet) how a government-run system is better:
1. It's more accessible (health care for everyone is about as accessible as you can get)
2. It's cheaper (we spend more than double, per capita, what socialized health care systems spend)
3. The care is higher quality (by almost every measurement, from life expectancy to surgery success rates to wait times to recovery time to patient satisfaction to medical errors, etc. socialized systems perform better)

The second part of my plan involves cost-savings and incentives for healthy lifestyles. In addition to socializing health care, my plan would impose a surcharge on those who insist on burdening the health care system through consciously unhealthy lifestyles. For one year, we'd give everyone health care. At the end of one year, we would institute a surcharge for those who insist on adding extra cost to the system: people with a BMI exceeding 30, smokers, people who have received a DUI, etc. We'd still be giving these people health care, but they would be charged for the additional cost their decisions introduce into the system.

Coupled with that, there would be an appeals process for people required to pay the surcharge. Mostly this would be for people appealing the ruling on BMI. Often very strong people have higher BMI's because muscle is much heavier than fat. Additionally, people may have medical conditions that force them into higher BMIs. For these people, we would make exceptions.

I think this two-pronged solution would solve our cost problems, inaccessibility, and many quality concerns.

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