But that won't stop me from opining on the topic.
Here are some assumptions I am starting with, and I think many people are likely to agree.
We already have socialized medicine.
Between Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, workers compensation, the VA, Federal employment benefits, and assorted other programs, the Federal, State, and local governments already provide millions of people with health care.
A person in need of immediate medical attention won't be denied care at an emergency room. Millions of people already use hospital emergency rooms for primary health care because they can't/won't pay to see a regular physician.
Socialized medicine is here today -- it's just delivered with terrible inefficiency.
We have some of the best medical technology in the world.
The medical schools and technology we have in the US create some of the best procedures, medical instruments, and medication. We have fantastic physicians and they are typically well compensated after years in their profession. Many other health care providers (RN's for example) are not as well compensated as we would like, but are still extremely talented.
The US pharmaceutical industry is a technological leader.
The US drug companies come under fire for their prices and for their defense of patents around the world. But the reason they are so often attacked for not sharing their products with the poor of the world is because they make such fantastic and innovative products.
Employers in the US have an extra burden they don't share with the rest of the world.
The primary provider of health care coverage in the US is the employer. Large companies provide coverage for employees. This cost, which is measured in the thousands of dollars, either depresses cash wages, or it reduces profits. Companies in other countries do not have to pay for health care for their employees.
Any health care plan we implement in the US must meet the following standards:
- Preserve the health care technology leadership the US has
- Keep and fairly compensate the skilled people in the industry
- Make the system more efficient and less wasteful than the current system
- Make health care affordable for those who currently can't afford it
- Reduce the burden on employers
We don't have to get there in one step. And I've always doubted that health care reform will come from the Democrats. Not because I question their commitment, but because there are too many industries opposing it, and too many varied constituencies within the party to reach consensus on one plan.
The true impetus for health care reform in the US will not come from the left. It will come from the corporate interests on the right. Health care reform in the US will come when big and medium business decides it is time to shift the burden of paying f0r health insurance to someone else.
In the meantime, the tragic stories of individuals will provide headlines, but are not likely to result in a significant changes to the system.
A small proposal
In the interim, here's a way to tweak the system that may help lower individual costs and increase coverage. I am making up the numbers out of thin air, so bear that in mind.
Everyone should have a government provided health insurance program that features a $50,000 annual deductible. Above that amount, the Feds (taxpayers) would cover the costs.
This will mean the private health insurance providers can lower their rates to make health insurance more affordable since their losses will be capped.
This will also lower the costs for employers.
Most people don't spend more than $50K per year on health care, so there is still an incentive for individuals to look for ways to minimize their costs.
The pharmaceutical and hospital industry can continue to operate as they currently do. Doctors and pharmacists don't suddenly become government employees, so the local hospitals don't become the local DMV.
This plan addresses some of the concerns above, but it's not comprehensive. It's a simple plan that provides a step forward. And maybe it will break the current political log jam.