Saturday, November 28, 2009

Care about Health?

I will be bluntly honest, health care in the US sometimes seems like the ultimate oxymoron - few people seem to actually care about the health of the nation, preferring to find as many ways to empty people's wallets as is humanly possible - and here I am not talking about tax increases but rather the voracious appetite of the market.

When it comes to health insurance I am as dyed in red wool as it is humanly possible to be, I believe that health care should be provided by the State and that it must be paid for from tax contributions. I have no problem whatsoever with a percentage of my salary being taken out at source to fund a health care system, unlike many it seems. I also prefer paying my insurance premium to the State rather than a corporation who primary concern is not my health but the health of their shareholders wealth.

What would I do to solve the problem of un-insured people in the US? Expand Medicaid, make the tax contribution 6% of each and every employed person's salary and open access to Medicaid to everybody living and working in the US. With an expanded Medicaid program, I would make it illegal for hospitals and other health care providers to refuse to accept this insurance. Sure, people can still have their private insurance, it is their perogative, but they can't opt out of paying their tax contributions.

Let me give you an example:

Mrs Velkyal had a thyroidectomy last year, which required 4 days in hospital. Having worked in the Czech Republic and paid her taxes the sum cost extra was the cost of board and lodging in the hospital - a grand total of 240CZK, at the time something like $15. The care was good, the staff were excellent. Sure the hospital is a bit old, but if you are worried about having a tv and a pretty building then I guess you just aren't sick enough.

This year, Mrs Velkyal broke her foot. She has health insurance with the school she works for. Total cost for a trip to ER, with x-ray, crutches and some strappy boot thing - $200. Seeing a podiatrist, $40 a time - 3 of those so far, and this is all on top of the ridiculous premium she pays.

Having seen health care provision from both sides of the Pond now, I can honestly say that America could learn an awful lot about health care provision from the Europeans - of course taking on board the idea that someone does something better than you is the difficult part. But tables don't lie and of the 36 countries with better health care than the USA, 17 of them are in the EU, 10 of which are in the top 20.