Thursday, March 15, 2007

US Healthcare

Guardian Comment editor Georgina Henry asked regular contributors, "What is the one thing you would most like to see happen by this time next year?"
Today she comments that this contribution "brought a generally thoughtful and civilised discussion, with comments that made their point but kept to a reasonable length." Since the comments on the page often read like it's a virtual care in the community project, I'm mildly proud to have been so therapeutic!

The health of a nation

Universal healthcare is on the agenda again in the US, and maybe this time the tide will finally turn.
Ian Williams

March 14, 2007 8:00 PM

QUESTION: What is the one thing you would most like to see happen by this time next year?

Last year, because of a missed invoice, I was without health insurance for a month. We hardly dared let the three-year-old out of the door. After all, medical bills are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcies in the US and most of them were people who lost their insurance when their illness cost them their jobs. Health insurance in the US almost invariably comes from employers.

This year the tide may finally turn. Universal healthcare is on the agenda again for the first time since Hillary Clinton destroyed it by insisting on keeping the insurance companies on board. They rewarded her by sinking her plan.

Since then the insurance companies' unaccountable bureaucracy has probably made the case better than anyone else. My personal best was being told that they had pre-authorised the removal of 15 inches of intestine, but not putting it back together again. Most Americans can pull out similar stories.

In addition, while for decades the big US corporations saw a national health service as big government intrusion involving yet more taxes and creeping socialism, there are signs that reality is bursting their ideological bubble.

Companies like the big automakers are creaking to bankruptcy under the burden of providing insurance and the costs keep mounting - and one-third of the cost is the administration by the insurance companies. Walmart, which is under heavy pressure to provide similar benefits for its hundreds of thousands of low-paid employees, has suddenly, expediently, begun to see the benefits of universal provision.

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