The truth about Health Care reform

September 8, 2009 — by Vijay Menon and Abhi Venkataramana

The recent controversy surrounding President Obama’s proposed health care reform bill has set off a right-wing propaganda mill, generating numerous lies and misconceptions and effectively inundating the public with a flood of misinformation. This fallacy-perpetuating conservative machine  has only served to muddle  the issue at hand, preventing any real and substantial debate from being held over this much needed reform. Conservative pundits have done everything in their power to try and taint the bill, with several going so far as to deem the proposal “socialist.” However, upon closely examining the proposed health care bill, it is clear that the a reform in this direction will be beneficial for the American public.
               

The most common misconception is that government will completely take over health care and bureaucracy will run rampant. Recent polls indicate that 54 percent of Americans believe that government will be the sole provider of health care if the reform passes, a stunning reality when taking into consideration Obama’s countless speeches, clarifications and town hall meetings regarding the subject.
               

However, Obama’s plan would simply create a “public option” for health care, in which people could choose between government provided insurance or private insurance. This option is already available in every developed country in the world with the sole exception of the United States. Obama has made clear numerous times that those who have health insurance that they would like to keep, which applies to most  

Saratoga residents, will not be forced to switch insurers. This “public option” is targeted specifically at the segment of the American public that is currently uninsured. Therefore, the reform only really applies those who desperately need health insurance yet remain uncovered at the present.
               

Another erroneous misconception about this proposal is that the overall quality of health care is going to decline significantly because of the reform. If anything, increased competition between public and private insurance companies will force all providers to increase their quality and provide a better overall product in order to retain their customer base, thus improving the quality of health insurance.
               

To be fair, those opting for government health insurance may not get the same premium quality as those who already have private insurance. But it is important to remember that the vast majority of people who will take advantage of the public option are those who already have bare-bones minimal health insurance or those who are already completely uninsured due to pre-existing conditions or financial reasons. For this target group, the quality of insurance will be a significant improvement. Here, however, arises the legitimate concern of many wealthy citizens is that they will be paying hard-earned tax dollars for a service that they will probably never use. This is a fair complaint, but it will be more than compensated for by the universally positive effects that will inevitably result from such reform.
                

Many economists such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman believe that in the long run, the plan will save more money than it costs. This it because the plan focuses on preventive care as opposed to post-symptom treatment. Preventive care and health education for the millions of Americans who currently receive no health care will save billions of dollars in the years to come by substantially lowering emergency room visits and decreasing the medical treatments that could have been avoided, two prominent factors behind the current health care crisis. Further benefits include higher productivity and lower crime and poverty rates as a result of a healthier society. In essence, the taxpayer that does not use the public option is instead paying for an overall more productive, wealthier, and healthier society.

             
If and when it all comes to fruition, America’s reformed health care system will be more like the current Swiss system than the socialist dystopia  that many Republicans want the American public to envision. In other words, it will be a system largely relying on private insurance companies using a mix of rules and subsidies to ensure that everyone is covered. In a country where approximately 50 million people are uninsured, that is the most important step.
               
Instead of railing against Obama’s proposed health care bill, Republicans should step across the aisle to lend bipartisan support to this worthy initiative. America remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee the essential service of health care to all of its citizens and it is absolutely imperative that this changes. In the short term, the bill would help struggling uninsured Americans deal with their health issues and provide security for them and their families by providing access to  health care. In the long run, preventive care and the social ramifications of this reform will more than make up for any potential drawbacks. The time is ripe for President Obama to deliver on the change that he promised. He will need the full support of the American public, which begins with separating fact from fiction.