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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Health Care: Reformation and Reclamation

Health is a science; health care is a business. There are innumerable intermediaries between the patient and his care: insurance policies, pharmaceutical companies, technicians and technology, doctors and hospitals. To what extent is it wise to further incorporate the government, which is ailing itself, in the progression from sickness to health?

On the White House website, the health care debate is addressed as ‘health insurance reform.’ Insurance reform is only a small part of our health care: we ought to ascertain that Obama has changes in mind for the health care providers as well.

Health science has reworked itself to profit most from the currently unsustainable business model. By this time, the technical side of a once noble profession has become just as unworkable as the business itself. Treatment is more accessible than preventive care, and Americans are suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, morbid obesity, pharmaceutical addiction, depression leading to suicide, and other diseases which can often be prevented.

As a prosperous and established nation, we should take pride in the wide availability of clean and healthy food in our restaurants and grocery stores; unfortunately, we’ve learned to seek out the high-sugar and high-fat options, which are usually cheaper. Americans are informed consumers of cars, houses, electronics, and clothing, legal advice, and more, but still trust health care professionals blindly.

Our hospital environments are unhygienic and hazardous–not because supplies or staff aren’t abundantly available, but through laziness, presumption, and inattention. Doctors order tests unnecessary to diagnostic procedure–sometimes reflexively, and sometimes with profit in mind. That profit is extremely unreliable; physicians are expected to provide care for Medicaid patients at 30 percent below cost, or are overpaid by thousands of dollars from patients with out-of-network insurance benefits. We are no longer naive enough to believe that these people receive equal levels of care.

If their drugs prove ineffective for long term care of an illness, pharmaceutical companies resort to misleading advertising campaigns to create patient demand–or compensate doctors for encouraging off-label usage to their patients, perpetuating, and initiating lifelong addictions.

These failures have entered public awareness, and few advocate the status quo. Here lies the government’s role in health care: to research, establish, and maintain effective preventive care, including regular check-ups, as a promotion of wellness and ultimately, a cost-cutting measure. However, looking to the government for further help than that will be expanding its role in a way that will cost us more and grant us a lower level of care in the long run.

We conceived this government to create and enforce legislation. We’ve since expanded its role to include our quality of life, expecting the government to facilitate our access to the best resources available, including our schools, our post offices, Social Security, and, of course, Medicare/Medicaid.

The case for ‘government takeover,’ or the slightly more likely nationalization of health care, is compelling enough. To keep this nation running well and productively we need our society’s collective body and mind to be in optimal condition. We want to know that our families will be taken care of, and not just because of their earning potential. Having access to good health care should not be associated with the same sort of guilt and resentment that honest business profits inspire. We owe care to veterans who have sacrificed their health for our safety.

With all this goodwill, it’s easy to overlook that those who earn the money to afford it will always, and ought to, have greater access to options for care and technological resources for themselves, or their families. Anti-‘socialist’ campaigning is not just about seeking profits for insurance companies; it’s about granting us the right to pay for what we need.’ Elective procedures including elective abortions are consumer products, not a basic triumph of civilization,whose cost should be borne by all, or that those who can afford it should be deprived of.

We should hesitate to accept or advocate government aid, not least because they have yet to emerge with a workable solution.

Most of Obama’s plans really only confirm and expand our current system, and Obama might be binding us, long term, to a solution that doesn’t work anyway. Centering the consumer is actually unfair. Aside from advertising campaigns, we have little insight into actual productivity and help that an insurance company will provide for us – or the education to understand what the data mean.

Incorporating the government as a cost-cutting measure is counter-intuitive, to say the least. We don’t want to burden our grandchildren by incurring further debt, but we don’t want the ‘fast and cheap’ solution either. This issue deserves our productive deliberation, and the sense of urgency that President Obama constantly instills his audiences with, or creating a long term plan based on our current economic situation is shortsighted.

His ability to appease the public and the opposing party may have won Obama the election, but he needs to drop that strategy now that he’s president. The immature back-and-forth surrounding this debate makes it clear that the strategy is not working. Legislators are susceptible to vocal and special interest groups, and the Republican Party has resorted to a singularly immature and reprehensible tactic; to promulgate obstructionist measures as part of an extended temper tantrum that’s lasted since January.

An article in the Washington Post suggested that Obama would advocate the public option; that patients would be allowed the choice between traditional, private insurance companies and a government run option, which would provide competition.

If this option is chosen, there will be a whole new set of concerns. Internally, who monitors the quality and data available on the public option, which is sure to run more like a bureaucratic Medicare-type program for ‘the rest of them’ than a competitive plan? How can we ensure that insurance companies won’t resort to poorer standards of care in hopes of matching their costs, or that they’ll be more selective with the patients they choose to cover?’

Whatever strategy Obama chooses, he shouldn’t be vain enough to commit the nation to it for too long. The market, the physicians, and the technology are constantly changing. Saddling ourselves with a 900 billion dollar plan that we have to pay off in ten years, when updates to care and illness abound, is unfair.

Both patients and physicians are losing out in the current system, having to deal with third- and fourth-parties to get medications and procedures. However, we have to avoid a system that will cost too much, last too long, or provide a lower level of care to each, in hopes of making care available to all.

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