US Health care reforms causing concern

America is currently in the middle of a war over health care reforms as the Obama administration seeks changes to the Medicare system which was set up in the 1960’s. The major problem is a conflict of interests between the government and constitutional law.

There is much confusion as to how the newly proposed system will work, and upon closer inspection it appears that congress are moving towards a similar system used by the British government.

A brief history of American health care

Dave Racer's book, "Your Health Matters: What You Need to Know About US Health Care" is a great resource for health care information.

The very first health care (or health insurance policy) was introduced by the 5th Congress at a time when America was a new country looking to build its economy. They realised that foreign goods were an essential building block in the country’s economy; therefore the sailors who carried those goods were a vital part of the country’s financial growth.

In July of 1798, Congress passed “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” as signed by President John Adams.

The act stated that all ships must collect a tax of 1% of each registered sailor’s wage which would allow him/her to health care at a Marine Hospital which was built to facilitate any required medical aid.

It was a mandatory tax which covered the sailors, whose work was strenuous, involved a lot of heavy lifting, tropical diseases, etc; but it kept the workers working and the economy booming.

The UK’s NHS (National Health Service)

The UK health care system is provided to all citizens who pay their National Insurance contributions and entitles them to hospital treatment in state hospitals. The system has worked for decades and is one of the lasting legacies of the socialist government of the 1960’s.

National Insurance contributions are automatically taken from an employee’s wages, and even people on benefits still have to contribute. The reason the system favours the government is that the average person in say, an office or shop job, is at much less risk of  serious injury which may result in an extended hospital stay than someone in a more physically demanding job. This means that the government is collecting the money from people who will rarely need such extreme health care.

Another way the government wins is by prescribed drugs. Any patient visiting their physician (doctor) and is prescribed medication, still has to pay for that prescription. In fairness it’s a standard fee regardless of the drugs prescribed, but that means someone prescribed Prozac pays the same as someone prescribed aspirin – which are much cheaper to produce and buy.

What’s the concern in the US over reforms?

Change and constitutional law.

[adsense]Any new system will cause confusion, a lot of people will be unable to understand the changes being made, making them very uncomfortable with the reforms. The conflicts with the constitution and certain amendments is also causing people to question the changes, and for a country that clings lovingly to its constitutional bill of rights, alarm bells are ringing.

Understanding the changes fully is the key to making the right decision for you as a health care consumer and a voter. The largest concerns seem to centre on insurance policies that do not cover individuals with existing health conditions. These appear to have been addressed by the new reforms.

Below is a list of the reforms as of March 22nd, 2010:

  • Cost: $940bn over 10 years; would reduce deficit by $143bn.
  • Coverage: Expanded to 32m currently uninsured Americans.
  • Medicare: Prescription drug coverage gap closed; affected over-65’s receive rebate and discount on brand name drugs.
  • Medicaid: Expanded to include families under 65 with gross income of up to 133% of federal poverty level and childless adults.
  • Insurance reforms: Insurers can no longer deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurance exchanges: Uninsured and self-employed able to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges.
  • Subsidies: Low-income individuals and families wanting to purchase own health insurance eligible for subsidies.
  • Individual Mandate: Those not covered by Medicaid or Medicare must be insured or face fine.
  • High-cost insurance: Employers offering workers pricier plans subject to tax on excess premium.

No system is perfect and there is always someone who gains more or loses out because of reforms. It seems the government is trying to strike a balance between the rich and the poor by increasing the payments made by higher earners and subsidising payments for low earners or large families.

With such a huge population there is always the risk of abuse and it would seem that with any state run insurance or mandatory health care system, the real winner is the body collecting the ‘taxes’.

Please leave share your thoughts on the current US Health Care reforms and their effect on you as an individual by leaving a comment.

Read about health care routines of heavy drinkers and Cirque Lodge rehab centre. Also, the highest number of cases requiring health care in modern society centre on obesity related issues, so a good way to reduce that risk is by a change of dietary habits, dropping junk food and sugary sodas in favour of organic, wholesome foods. Read about the vegetarian diet and its health benefits.