By Dan Young
Health care in the U.S. is in crisis.
More than 41 million people have no insurance coverage. Another 40 million have such poor coverage that any major illness would destroy them financially.
Patients find their interest is directly opposed to that of their insurance company. To increase profit, the insurance company denies as many claims as possible. It also puts pressure on the physician to avoid expensive tests and treatments, even if he thinks they are needed. Patients are discharged from hospital before they are ready in order to save the company money.
Hospitals are forced to cut nursing service and other essential services. Some have had to close emergency rooms.
In spite of all these defects in services, the U.S. spends twice as much per person on health care as any other industrialized country. All the others cover everyone, and cover much more than even the insured get here.
The main problem in the U.S. is that health care is financed through profit-making corporations. The administrative and advertising costs and profits of these companies divert 30 cents of every dollar going into the system from actual health care.
No other industrialized country allows such expenses in its health care system. Also, the private profit system cannot cover everyone.
In response to this crisis, the Journal of the American Medical Association of Aug. 13, 2003, published a proposal for a single-payer national health insurance system signed by more than 8,000 physicians and medical students.
This system could cover every American fully, providing prescription drugs and long-term care, and would actually cost billions less than the present system.
Because there is no realistic chance that this Congress will enact such a system, several states have been working toward universal care on the state level.
In many, including North Carolina, studies have been done showing that the states could achieve universal care at a total cost less than what their citizens and businesses are paying now if the systems were designed properly.
Dr. Daniel T. Young, a retired professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a member of the North Carolina Committee to Defend Health Care.