Home > Health Care, Polemics > What Does Health Care Mean in the United States of America?

What Does Health Care Mean in the United States of America?

The debate in the U.S. is coming to a head, and the Obama/Pelosi/Reid train seem to be making the final stop, and calling all aboard. Those who are left at the station will…well, they might make one more stop if there are too many people left at the station. That is the state of Democracy in the United States, at this very moment.

There was a point I was pretty sure what the current fight for health care was about. I actually read some of the various bills…well, skimmed and scanned really, but that is more than most laypeople do. I looked for the provisions of discussion, and searched for the nasty deals. I even looked at the Republican offering, and was actually surprised how common-sense it really was. In the early versions of the House bill, constructed by the Democrats, I saw the huge expanse of government the Republicans were fearful of. The bill had commissions for everything, and the Secretary of Health had enormous power. And yes, there was a “public option.” Many of the new commissions were to govern that public-option and make sure it jelled with the private system currently in place. There were also all kinds of professional development programs, and provisions for technology upgrades. The bill was chalked full of things that really amassed to a totally new system. I can see why people might be scared. All these new things, but put into a global context, they were things other countries equally advanced as the U.S. already had in place. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. was playing catch up.

But while this was out there, I didn’t see much Republican opposition except for crap general statements. I followed site after site and didn’t get anything meaningful. Now though, at zero hour, the Republicans seem to have some piece of real identifiable legislation that is running counter to what the Democrats have. You can get all the text, and more at www.gop.gov. Like I said, the bill is fairly commonsense and basically rehashes all the traditional Republican talking points of tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, tax credits, and other incentive based provisions to encourage people to buy insurance. Personally, I don’t see how it controls cost, or lowers premiums, or does anything close to reducing deficit and debt projections. And Republicans definitely do not touch entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. So, the Republicans do have a plan, just a little too late, and fairly thin.

The thing this whole debate has brought about though is a discussion about what exactly does health care mean for the United States of America? We hear that it is 1/6 of the economy. We hear that more people go bankrupt because of costs related to health care than anything else. We hear that insurance companies make huge amounts of money from health care. We hear that the U.S. system is the best in the world. We hear that our doctors and the actually care is the best in the world. On and on and on and on. We hear so many things. So what does it all mean?

Well, part of my answer is anecdotal. My father went to the hospital after fainting and cracking a rib. His bill was littered with tests and checks and all sorts of things. He was billed for doctors who didn’t even see him. His bill totaled US$55,000. That is a lot of money. I saw it with my own eyes, and I have fairly good eyesight. I was fully awake and not daydreaming (my father has a pretty loud voice so I was pretty alert). Thankfully, he was covered by Medicare, his own private insurance, and my mothers private insurance. At the end of the day, his total charge – US$0. Thank you GOVERNMENT RUN INSURANCE! Medicare picked up the whole shibang. Still though US$55,000 is a lot of money. You’d think he was in the hospital for a month or so, but no, he was in for a few days (over a holiday weekend so the costs were a little higher than normal week days). The ironic thing is the doctors couldn’t find out why my father fainted. The tests were inconclusive. They thought he was just a little too tired. 55 Grand, lots of test, no real answer, but at least his rib was fixed up nice and right.

In the United States, it seems that health care is about cost. Hospital costs, doctor costs, medicine costs, room costs (US$8,000 for one night), malpractice costs, insurance costs, all sorts of costs. It seems, that if government could figure out a way to actually control the cost structure maybe the system would function better…maybe? To that the only real answer to actually impose cost, create a really competitive market by implementing a single-payer tax based system, and make the insurance companies go elsewhere for business. Abolish checklist health care. Get rid of ridiculous lawsuits. Let doctors practice medicine and healing instead of fighting for paychecks. I’m sure the doctors who took care of my father were very comfortable because the minute they saw Medicare plus 2 other major private insurers they stopped worrying about whether the patient could pay for the care, and for them. I would hate to think what the case would be if my father didn’t have that kind of coverage.

In the United States, health care also means jobs. If my father, and mother, didn’t have good jobs they wouldn’t have had the insurance plans to back up whatever Medicare might not had covered. They are retired, but because of the pension plans from their jobs they have excellent health insurance. 30 plus years of hard labor paid off. But that kind of peace of mind came with A JOB! Make no mistake, this health care debate is as much about jobs than any stimulus, or jobs bill, or unemployment number. If health care is the driving force of family bankruptcy then having a job that provides adequate health care is a necessity. If the costs of health care are too high then companies will choose not to hire people. Health care = jobs. I think this message was lost, or was never clearly made.

At the end of the day, health care in the U.S. isn’t about reconciliation debates, or fights to maintain political power. The citizens of the U.S. don’t care who is in a seat. What they want is for their premiums to stop rising. They want treatment when necessary. They don’t want to have to worry about being kicked off a plan, or not being able to join one.

And to push it further, I think the citizens of the U.S. would love a real public plan that covers all people. I think the citizens of the U.S. would love Medicare for everyone. But what they do not have is the leadership to get it done because to the leaders, health care means politics and power plays. For politicians, issues that citizens worry about are about poll numbers and election cycles. It’s about ego. When ego and self-fullfilment is removed then maybe we can get down to the reality of hard choices. But that takes enormous will, modesty, and humbleness that current politicians simply do not have.

So, the choice is a 2700 page bill to who-knows-where…and the cost of doing business in the United States of America – 2010 mid-term elections.


  1. March 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Excellent post. The talking point I’m hearing most these days is that people form other countries come to this country for our great health care. Even if this is true (and what kind of research are they using?)how many people can afford to go to anouther country for health care? Only the wealthy. Furthermore the point is moot since unemployed people find the cost of American health care prohibitive.

    • March 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

      That’s right.

      I heard the Prime Minister of Canada came to Florida for treatment. Some people used that for the argument that the U.S. care and system are the best. They forget the fact that he is the leader of a nation, and probably has some clout to throw around. U.S. health care is the best in the world, if you can afford it. The doctors will do a great job, if you can pay them. If you ain’t got the cash, then things are a totally different reality.

      Thanks for the comment.


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