National Health Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not go far enough.
(Written in 2012 by John W. Tilford)

I personally benefit from “socialized medicine: at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis and the VA clinic in Bloomington. I have had several surgeries and other procedures done at the Medical Center. The care I have received could not have been better. The VAMC has saved me from cancer and saved my vision. Over 70% of all VA hospitals are in partnership with medical schools. Internationally known faculty members of the Indiana University School of Medicine have provided their opinions of the best course of treatment for patient John W. Tilford – and these specialists had no idea of my rank, years of service, or percentage of service connected disability. I was just a patient. Don’t think the United States government cannot run a good medical program, it can. The government is doing it right now through the VA and it’s a potential model for a national health care system.

Lack of such a system burdens the United States economically and handicaps U.S. employers in international competition. Over 75 billion dollars are spent for emergency room treatment for uninsured patients annually, resulting in an approximately $1,000 of additional cost to each middle class family due to increased ER charges to insured patients and therefore increased health insurance premiums. The $4,000 emergency room cost (ultimately passed to you and me in a back door manner through increased hospital charges and our insurance premiums) for the uninsured child with a 104 degree fever could have been a $100 cost (shared with you and me but more efficiently and transparently) if the child had been taken to a doctor a week earlier and provided some antibiotics or preventative care through a national health care system. I’ve seen these cases in the ER and so have you. The United States stands 15thamong industrialized countries in terms of life expectancy lost due to problems in health care (trailing such economic power houses as Greece, Spain, and Ireland) but we spend far and away the most in terms of percentage of GDP: 16% versus number two Canada at 10%. The health care system we have now is among the least effective in terms of cost benefit on the planet – probably the least effective.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a blended approach which includes existing health insurance providers as a compromise, a carrot to Big Business and their Republican friends. It will work if given a fair chance (which it probably won’t be) but not as efficiently or as effectively as an actual national health care system similar to that of the United Kingdom, Sweden, and other progressive nations. Polly and I once overheard a conversation between two ladies at the next table an English restaurant. One was complaining to the other that her son would have to wait a year for a liver transplant. I know of men and women in the 9th District who will never get a needed organ transplant and will die because of it. Please consider where there is money to be made from health problems, someone will find a way to do it: the British mother could have obtained quicker surgery for her son through a parallel for-profit medical insurance system. Those who can afford expensive health care can still get it.

My son was in his early twenties and working an entry level service job in London, England. He caught something and was too sick to work. One of his co-workers checked on him. Found him with fever and chills in his little apartment.
“What are you doing? Get down to the health care provider right now!” My son thought he could not afford treatment and said so.
“Oh, that’s right. You are an American and don’t know about real health care.”
My son spent the equivalent of $20 for diagnosis and medication. He was well in two days.

By the way, in the mid-1990s Newt Gingrich supported fees for those who did not voluntarily obtain national health insurance. Then he understood that shared risk requires shared costs – the principle of effective insurance of any type. If those who are (currently!) healthy opt out and do not share the costs through premiums or compulsory fees, those with the pre-existing conditions and the rest of us will pay too much. I guess Newt forgot.

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