From the title above, it sounds like I am prejudging President Obama. In fact, I think I am judging based on what he has said/written. I have read all that was posted on the subject on his Campaign Website (www.barackobama.com) and many blogs and posts on both sides of the aisle. I have been following his public statements. What emerges from Mr. Obama’s election campaign and his first two months in office is a “plan” that hits all the main points of the debate and gives lip service to the problems. It promises reform, cuts, and efficiencies, but few and vague details. For example, he claims the average family will see its health insurance “costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.” He implies that your healthcare cost will go down. But, what he says is that your health insurance cost will go down. He mentions only improved technology, competition, better prevention techniques, etc. He mentions nothing of increased deductibles, or cost shifts to the government. In short, he has left enough wiggle room to drive a hospital through it.
It is my intent to do 4 posts (after this intro) on Mr. Obama’s Healthcare Plan. This first post will list and briefly discuss the chief issues currently being discussed regarding the US Healthcare Delivery System as it exists today. The second will discuss the substance of the Obama Healthcare Plan. The third will look at the pros and cons of what Mr. Obama offers. Last will be my opinions as to what needs to be done and how it resembles/differs from the Obama Plan.
The Basic Issue: The Healthcare Industry now accounts for approximately 17% of our Gross Domestic Product, or an annual cost of about $2.5 Trillion. That works out to more than $8,000 per man, woman, and child in the United States. Yet, with all this money allocated to our health, it is estimated that between 45,000,000 and 50,000,000 people lack formal health insurance coverage. In spite of amazing new drugs, new procedures, and new medical equipment, our National Health does not seem to be getting any better. Most agree that the delivery of health care is uneven and could be improved. Many people have little access to quality health care. Employers can’t continue to pay for family healthcare for their employees and are shifting costs to the employees.
The Specific Issues:
1. Cost – Is the price of adequate healthcare too high? Does the cost drive people from the system and make them rely on emergency health care only?
2. Healthcare Delivery – Is the delivery system flawed? Does the market system of allocation actually exist as it pertains to healthcare delivery? Or is allocation of services set by current government controls and/or economic realities? Do HMOs work or is there a better method of allocating healthcare?
3. Prescription Costs – Why are pharmaceuticals priced so much lower in almost every country outside of the USA?
4. Legal Costs – Do malpractice lawsuits and the protection against lawsuits increase the cost of our care out of proportion to the benefit provided by the legal remedies we now have?
5. Prevention – Does our healthcare delivery model neglect prevention as a tool for national health care?
6. Portability – Does a system make sense that would allow a person to retain his or her healthcare coverage inspite of where he or she might work?
7. Insurance – What part should be played in Medical Care by insurance companies?
8. Stem cell Research/Cloning/Abortion/Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide – Should there be national policy on “reproductive rights” or “assisted suicide” or “cloning humans,” etc.? Or, are these purely ethical issues that should be moved away from government action/interference? Are they better considered at the State or local level?
Beware. This is one subject about which I will pose more questions than I will try to answer. Your participation will be most helpful in making this worthwhile. If, for example, I have missed a major issue and a commenter recommends it, I will try to add it to the debate.