Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Yay for the Bay State!

As it has in same sex marriage, looks like Massachusetts is trying to lead the way on health care for all.

It's about damned time, I say. Experts say that, in the not-too-distant future, the US will spend 40% of its GNP on health care, and I just heard on NPR News a study that concluded that Americans spend more on health care and get less than about ten other nations, including Canada, England and New Zealand. Call me crazy, but I don't think the world's remaining superpower should rank behind New Zealand in anything, and particularly not something as basic and critically important as health care. The time has come for a universal health care program.

In response, I'm always hearing, "I don't want to spend my money taking care of others' health." Newsflash: We already do. Who do you think picks up the tab for those homeless people who nearly freeze to death and wind up in the ER? Or the indigent people who can't afford preventative care and wind up using (much more expensive) emergency care? That's right...the taxpayer foots the bill for all of it, except we do it when it's most expensive. Let me propose the following example to illustrate my point.

  • Scenario A: Insured Tracker comes down with a nasty case of a sore throat, which unbeknownst to him is strep throat. Tracker goes to his primary care physician (at a cost of about $150), finds out the nature of his illness, and gets a prescription for an antibiotic (at a cost of about $15 to the pharmaceutical company) that clears up the infection within two weeks.
  • Scenario B: Uninsured Tracker, who can't cough up the $150 for the visit, tries to wait out the sore throat, hoping for the best. When his illness becomes life-threatening he goes to the ER to find that he had strep which, having gone untreated, has now turned into a dandy case of rubella. Tracker is admitted to the hospital, which spends tens of thousands of dollars trying to save his life.

Most of you reading this are U.S. taxpayers, so I ask: Which scenario is the most cost-effective? If you said "Scenario A", you are correct; if you said, "Scenario B", you're lying because it's obvious that answer's wrong.

Gotta do it, folks, if only for economic reasons. I'm not advocating that we abolish private health care; those who can pay more should be able to get more. However, every citizen deserves at least the protection of a catastrophic health care plan. It's not just morally wise; it's fiscally responsible.

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