Friday, June 26, 2009

Healthcare debate: 100 years later, still the same

Look at this amazing Google timeline of the national debate about health care reform over the past 100 years. At a glance, it’s clear that the anti-reformers have won the debate by throwing lots of money and hysterical arguments at the issue, leaving us where we are today.

There’s only one lesson to learn from this timeline: Health care reform is routinely defeated by the insurance and medical industries’ insistence that there is no need for a government mandate, that socialized medicine is bad, bad, bad, and that the industry and the markets can self-regulate themselves, covering more for less money.

100 years later, more Americans are losing more of their assets as a result of out-of-control health care costs, 47 million Americans are uninsured, jobs are being lost or eliminated because of the cost to employers to ensure the workforce, and yet, the debate still centers around the medical-pharma-insurance industry claims that market-based coverage is the best option.

While the health care argument can be framed in terms of economics, there’s an important social component that’s being buried in the current hysteria over costs and budgets. As our current system stands, the rich get the very best health care available, the elderly get better health care than they did before they were elderly, and the very poor get the basics.

The ones left in the cold? The unemployed, the self-employed, the small business owners, the middle class, people suffering from chronic illness and their caretakers. There is a fundamental social inequity built into the structure of health insurance and health delivery systems that cannot be solved by the markets because the markets are designed to be efficient and efficient markets cannot accept known risk.

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