Republicans seem determined to have us pay too much for inferior health care. The US remains the single modern nation without an efficient universal health care plan.
The reason Republicans don’t want this is that it means we will instantly become “socialist”. They have been making the same claim without pause since 1856, so it’s unclear where their fear comes from. Not to mention that one can hardly claim that all the countries that do have national plans have become Marxist-Leninist prison camps. Almost all of them are regularly judged to be better places to live than the good old US of A.
The latest Republican gambit to ruin the health of Americans, espoused in one form or another by all the legions of Republicans who think they would be a great president, much better than you-know-who, is to do away with Medicare, substituting some sort of voucher system. Individuals could then purchase “superior” private insurance.
Take a look at this chart, which Paul Krugman presented in his New York Times blog on 12 June 2011. What it shows is that at every point since 1969, private insurance has cost more than Medicare, considerably more. And don’t forget, if you buy private insurance, you’ll have to be approved. Approval won’t be forthcoming if you actually need insurance coverage.
We spend over 17% of our Gross Domestic Product for our inferior health care coverage, compared to half that for other countries. And not everyone is covered.
We should reinstate “death panels”. Really. Are they death panels? Of course not. “Death panels” exist only in the fevered imaginations of campaigning Republicans. There are two kinds of boards the Republicans try to call “death panels” in hopes of continuing to have us pay twice as much for medical care as we should.
One type, which is used by every private insurer in the country, decides which procedures and medications the company insurance will pay for. For example, it is ridiculous to pay $1400 for an MR scan for a broken bone, say, when a simple and inexpensive X-ray will provide the same information, so not paying for an MRI under those circumstances is appropriate. “Death panel”. Likewise, the latest expensive drug isn’t necessarily better than the old inexpensive one, in spite of what the multi-million dollar TV and magazine ad campaign claims. A Medicare panel that makes these decisions is no different from an insurance panel. Moreover, anyone who disagrees with such “death panel” decisions is always free to pay for the more expensive option.
The other type of panel provides information to patients nearing the end of life, when a person may need to tell his family and doctor what he would like. Do you want heroic measures to extend your life if you have an inevitably fatal disease, or would you prefer palliative hospice care? Do you want to have surgery if the risk of death is high? And so on. There are things to be decided, and expert advice is a good idea so that a patient can make an informed decision. Republicans have also tried to call these “death panels”, meaning that by providing such information, it will be decided whether you live or die. (This just in: we all die.)
Altogether, what Republicans are claiming about health care is ludicrous from one end to the other.