Time for nation to make war on health care costs | SummitDaily.com

Time for nation to make war on health care costs

With all the attention we have given to the war in Iraq and the reawakening of the Bush administration to the serious problems in our economy, we are still not hearing a lot about the disaster befallen our health care system.

People on fixed incomes talk to me on a regular basis about how their retirement income has not increased while their health insurance premiums have doubled and even tripled in the past couple of years.

A few years like this and they will have to go back to work just to pay for health care.

My employees have been required to pay larger deductibles and co-pays just to keep their coverage at the same level. Each year this becomes a greater problem as health-care needs and costs rise.

Everyone wants to blame the hospitals and doctors but that is not where the problem is. Again, Pogo was right: We have met the enemy and it is us.

We just came off a 10-year free ride of the best economy this country has ever enjoyed. Each time that happens, there are always those who are left behind.

Under a hospital’s charter or sometimes under a state or federal law, hospitals are required to provide free services to indigent patients.

It is only free to the patient and not to the hospital or the doctor. The hospital and doctors have to pay their bills, regardless. To make up for this “free” care the costs are folded into the costs everyone else has to pay.

Last year, I read an article about the fact that in some hospitals, a single aspirin might cost $8. The aspirin actually costs the hospital a small part of a penny, but the difference is in the number of “free” aspirins the hospital has given away. We are all paying for free services to those who cannot afford to pay.

I lived in England for almost four years in the 1960s. My oldest daughter was born there, and she enjoys dual citizenship. As a small baby, she had free medical care under the United Kingdom’s system of socialized medicine. Free milk. Free home visits from a nurse. Everything was free.

But, if you wanted to pay for medical services in England, you could go to a private doctor and a private hospital – both outside of socialized medicine. It was two medical systems in one country. We have the same thing but they are both within the same system with the cost being spread over all the patients, wealthy or not.

The latest innovations in medicine are wonderful, but not cheap. You can now get body parts replaced on your health insurance. Depending on your coverage, you can even get cosmetic procedures done to remain forever young.

New tools to diagnose your illness are coming on the market daily. More early detection of disease is possible, requiring more early intervention to cure the illness. These are things that never happened before when we all thought medical care was cheap.

The medical industry has a very large lobby before Congress and is working continually on wide-scale solutions to these issues.

Drug companies are against the ropes because of their high research costs which they must pass on to consumers. People are moving to the Internet to order drugs from Canada and Mexico to avoid the high tariffs on prescriptions in the United States. No one seems able to explain why the same drug by the same manufacturer is cheaper in another country.

Maybe we should have a war about drugs instead of a war against drugs.

Our current health care trend is the kind of issue that will tear at the basic fabric of our society’s infrastructure. We are so concerned about creating a democracy in Iraq or finding Nirvana when the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaches 11,000 instead of finding how to provide health care to the people at a reasonable cost with an efficient delivery system.

This is the kind of issue we should all be willing to go to Washington, D.C., and march on the Capitol about.

County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom writes a regular Thursday column for the Summit Daily News.

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