U.S. Needs Major Healthcare Reform, Not Band-Aid

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In their typically overheated and sensationalistic manner, some conservatives are actually blaming “socialism” and our northern neighbor for the recent death of actress Natasha Richardson.—-

Several conservative pundits are pontificating about Richardson’s skiing accident in Canada and using factually inaccurate information to bolster their case that deficiencies in Canada’s government-run healthcare system might have contributed to the actress’ death.

Columnists and Op-Ed pages at The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post and other outlets have questioned whether the Canadian hospital where Richardson initially was taken had a CT scanner, and whether a helicopter flight — instead of the actual ambulance drive that was used — to another facility might’ve resulted in a timelier diagnosis and treatment which could have saved her life.

The reality is, the hospital Richardson was first taken to did have a CT scanner. And there’s no evidence that the drive to another hospital contributed to Richardson’s death.

What is clear is the current U.S. healthcare system, which relies on profit and treats medical treatment as a commodity rather than a public service, hasn’t served its citizens well and continues to get worse with each passing year as politicians bicker about what reforms are needed.

A recent study shows that one out of every five American workers is uninsured, up from one in seven workers just a decade ago. A total of 26.9 million workers are uninsured, even though they are productive citizens and pay taxes.

Conducted by the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center, the study found that insurance premiums have increased six to eight times faster than wages.

The study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which provides money for healthcare research.

Perhaps more troubling, another recent study — conducted by The Lewin Group and sponsored by Families USA — found that 86.7 million Americans were uninsured at some point during the past two years. That’s much higher than the U.S. Census update in 2007, which reported 45.7 million were uninsured.

Although President Obama has said healthcare reform is a top priority and has convened a group of experts to study options, he’s essentially ruled out converting to a single-payer system.

Single-payer national health insurance involves a system in which one governmental agency controls healthcare financing and negotiates prices but the actual delivery of services remains handled by private providers The government provides insurance, but people keep their choice of private physicians, who continue to provide services.

Most industrialized democracies use some form of single-payer, and numerous studies have shown their systems to be more efficient and produce better overall health results than the U.S. system.

Still, the highly profitable insurance industry exploits Americans’ fears about having to wait for some services to stymie serious reform. Unfortunately, the overly timid Obama has bought into this thinking.

Obama’s no socialist and, despite what conservatives say, a single-payer system isn’t socialized medicine.

But it was a true socialist — Billy Wharton, editor of Socialist magazine — who posed a pertinent question to the president earlier this month in an Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post, one I’d like to hear Obama answer.

“Can you sell a health-care reform package,” Wharton wrote, “that will only end up enriching a private health insurance industry?”

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