Greed, Fairness & Health Care

Most primary care physicians, those front-line, modestly compensated soldiers of American health care, likely favor a national insurance program. After all, they regularly witness the devastation of acute, catastrophic illness, the stress of a sudden, unexpected loss of income and the manipulative practices of health insurance companies.

Financed by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and coordinated by conservative politicians, the recent backlash against health care reform has gripped the nation, triggering contentious arguments and baseless fears. Those that foment this turmoil are protecting their profit margins while a gullible public, many at personal risk for medical catastrophe, blindly join the protest. In reality, the wealthy, flush with insurance coverage and unaffected by co-payments or merely reluctant to share their good fortune (whether earned or inherited); they will continue to visit convenient, high priced urgent care centers for symptoms of the common cold. At the other end of the spectrum, the homeless and impoverished will continue to use emergency rooms and hospitals with little concern for the cost; they have no means to pay or are already covered by Medicaid.

It is the great middle class that has the most to lose if the option of national health insurance is not made available. Private insurance companies, long unwilling to reach out to the growing number of uninsured Americans, have little to offer but empty promises; faced with the prospect of government competition (a challenge surmounted by other industries, e.g. FedEx, UPS), they spread the mantra that federal involvement will lead to loss of choice and bureaucratic inefficiencies. Certainly, any new system will need to address the issues of red tape and evidence based service but the current, private model has produced rising costs and widespread inequities. We can go on arguing whether health care is a right or a privilege but, in my opinion, it's overdue for a drastic change.