Health Care System is Failing Us

The $3.5 trillion per year that Americans currently spend on health care could easily pay for universal health care

By Ken Miller

The recent letter from state Rep. Dennis Lenz warning us about the dire socialistic outcomes of federally mandated price controls is nothing more than unfounded, irrational fear mongering. His arguments against federal price controls read more as an indictment of our current health care system than a warning against government intervention. The fact that 52 of Montana’s 56 counties don’t have enough primary care services and nine have no doctors at all tells me that the profit-based health care system that we have in this country is failing us. 

It is insulting to our collective intelligence to compare Soviet bread lines to legislation that is attempting to stabilize soaring healthcare prices. Regulating prices so that a patient isn’t bankrupted by a surprise medical bill is a far cry from the strict government ownership of all businesses that would lead to rationing or shortages. The scary hypothetical scenarios that Rep. Lenz describes as a potential outcome of price control legislation are already a sad reality for many Americans. Even so, this legislation is only looking to treat one symptom of a diseased, failed system. 

Socialized health care in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom show us that this is a viable option. I’ve heard personal anecdotes from citizens of these countries both for and against their health care systems, but I have yet to hear a single American say how happy they are with their insurance company. Most of us feel that prices are too high, and coverage is too limited. Anecdotes aside, these other countries provide statistically better health care at a lower cost than we have in America. We can learn the lessons from these other countries and create a system in America that improves upon their models.

We already pay taxes to provide fire protection, law enforcement, public roads and other services. A large portion of our property tax already goes to provide free public K-12 education to every child in Montana. Our federal taxes fund nearly $1 trillion in military spending per year. If we are content with funding socialized education, transportation, life safety protection, and military, then why is socialized health care for all such a radical idea? 

The $3.5 trillion per year that Americans currently spend on health care could easily pay for universal health care, and with less of that spending being wasted on administrative overhead costs. As much as people want to believe that private enterprise is an efficient machine while governments are wasteful bureaucracies, the facts are the complete opposite regarding health care. Government overhead to administer Medicare and Medicaid are less than 2 percent of the overall costs, while the average insurer’s administrative costs are over 12 percent. 

The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction towards providing insurance coverage to more people and protecting the 50-120 million Americans with a pre-existing condition. But as long as insurance companies and their inherent profit motives are involved with healthcare we will never have truly affordable and universal coverage.

I, for one, am tired of our elected leaders telling us that the healthcare system we have is broken, but there’s no way to fix it. Solutions exist, but our leaders need to exercise the courage to make real change.

Ken Miller lives in Bigfork.

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