Timothy Noah is kicking of a new series for Slate on what Presidential candidates are promising in terms of health care reform with a look at Barack Obama’s health care plan. Here’s what he says about the state of health care in America:
Health care has lately ranked second, third, or fourth in polls asking what the federal government’s greatest priority should be, and I predict it will soon settle in for a long run as No. 2. (For the foreseeable future, the Iraq war will remain No. 1.) As I’ve noted before, the American health-care system is in an advanced state of collapse owing to the failure of an 80-year experiment in market economics. Politically, the problem has grown more urgent because rising health-care premiums and diminishing coverage are starting to cause serious problems for the middle class. Health insurance costs more and more and covers less and less. Per capita health-care costs are about twice what they were when Hillary Clinton tried unsuccessfully to reform the system in 1994, and the ranks of the uninsured have increased by 13 percent. Universal health insurance, which has eluded the political system at least as far back as 1912, when former president Teddy Roosevelt endorsed it in his failed Bull Moose bid, is starting to look inevitable. Even insurance companies think so, according to a May 30 article by Jackie Calmes in the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, the insurers have given up blocking universal health care, “Harry and Louise”-style, and are now redirecting their energies toward co-opting it.
I am inclined to agree that health care is the most important domestic issue that the next President can actually do something about, so I’m very curious about what the various candidates propose to do about it.
I think the media is behind the curve on this issue as well. Yes, we have a crisis in terms of the number of uninsured people in this country, but we have a second crisis for people who do have insurance. For the past few years I’ve had “good” health insurance, and my premiums have been absurdly expensive, working with the insurance company has been difficult, and I still have to pay out of pocket for many things. Prescription drug insurance is a joke. (The new tactic for health insurance plans is to lower the number of pills they’ll cover over 30 days so that your copay covers almost the entire cost of the medicine.) When you got to a pharmacy and your doctor’s prescription requests more pills than the insurance company wants to pay for, the pharmacist generally treats you like you and your doctor are accomplices in trying to perpetrate some kind of fraud.
I have been wondering lately whether it would be a better deal to forego regular health insurance and get a high deductible plan and a health savings account. It’s time for a change, and I’m eager to vote for someone who can bring about that change.