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Give Us Public Healthcare

I can remember as a kid wondering how Bombay, India (now Mumbai) could have such poor conditions that one could often see a body or two lying dead in the streets. At least that rarely happened in this country. I realized as an adult that a lot of the less fortunate die at home or in the emergency room due to a lack of proper care during their lifetime. Why? Because they were not lucky enough to have health insurance provided by their employer or sufficient funds to pay for our own. There is a law that certain hospitals must take the indigent into their emergency rooms, and they are then reimbursed by the government. The trouble is, the indigent wouldn’t need the expensive emergency room in the first place if basic month-to-month care during their lives were available.

Let’s take a look at our lives and ask: What is the one thing we cannot know or plan for in the near or distant future? We know we must have an income to handle the month-to-month expenses of our food, utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, education, and transportation. We know if we live long enough, and everyone likes to think they will, we will need money to live on during retirement.

We also know that we have to take care of our health through good diet and exercise, but who can forecast that broken leg, a serious accident, a problem pregnancy or birth or, worst of all, life-threatening cancer or another serious disease? No one. So why is it not a primary goal of our society that all people have some sort of guaranteed care? Shouldn’t our federal and state governments handle this responsibility? Guess what. For a good number of us, they already do. I am lucky enough to have an excellent health insurance plan because I retired from a government job that included these benefits. Every government worker in the whole country is covered in some way for health-related situations. We also have Medicaid, Medicare and a drug plan for the elderly. And, if someone dies without money, the government’s responsibility is to take care of the remains.

So now I see a glimmer of hope that a complete government plan is possible. I also know the plan passed by Congress at the end of 2009 is a rough start. If we ever get to a tax-paid insurance policy, I would expect it to be a basic plan to cover people in their everyday lives for normal healthcare needs. A yearly visit to your doctor of choice would be a must to continue your coverage. I do not think it should cover problems due to habits such as smoking, illegal drugs, or overly adventurous lifestyles. The provision of painkillers would be the humane exception. If you are going to do any of these things, you would plan for the expense of an additional personal policy on your own or one negotiated through your employer. Bungee jumping, air travel, and even auto travel could be covered by separate private insurance policies.

The insurance companies need to play an important role in this endeavor since our governments are not insurance specialists. A specification would be crafted by professional experts, which would then be bid upon, say, every five years for each state or group of states. If and when this comes to pass, we will have a much-improved system with a healthier populace and hospitals will see reduced expenses for emergencies. It is a fact that preventive health maintenance is far less expensive than the post-symptoms reactions we rely on today. The fact that all taxpayers would be contributing, hopefully on a graduated scale similar to that of income tax, means less average cost to the individual. Our businesses could eliminate their almost-unmanageable employee healthcare costs, we could buy a car without having to pay the autoworker’s health plan, and our businesses could compete on a more level playing field with those who already have tax-paid health plans.

So now we must contend with a Republican House of Representatives that would stop “Obamacare” in its infancy. This is from people who have a gold-plated healthcare plan paid by the federal government. Who the hell elected these people?

David F. Baker, Buffalo

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