How many more have to die?

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Despite the best efforts of caring and compassionate healthcare workers, the American health care system is killing countless Americans every day. People die without insurance or are saddled with tremendous debt from outrageous medical bills.

It’s wrong.

Health, dental and vision insurance comes at a premium, and if you’re not one of those fortunate to have those benefits through your job, be prepared to pay insane prices for subpar insurance. If you can’t afford it, you might qualify for Medicaid. But then again, you might be among those who are between a financial rock and a hard place because of North Carolina’s inaction on Medicaid expansion.

Of course, opinions on how to go about healthcare reform, and providing affordable access to care vary drastically based on party and ideology.

On the one hand, the government uses tax dollars to help cover healthcare costs, offering individuals tax credits to help purchase insurance through a federally maintained marketplace. Some decry this as a socialist approach to health care.

On the other, there is the idea that one’s health and health care should be the responsibility of the patient, with companies encouraged to provide benefits for their workers. Critics say this approach leaves society’s most vulnerable out in the cold.

Here are a couple ideas that everyday folks from the left and the right can get on board with:

  • Don’t wait until people get sick to talk about health. As a country, there needs to be more focus on preventative medicine and health education.
  • Let health insurance companies compete across state lines. Don’t allow the big companies to have a virtual monopoly. Encouraging competition will allow consumers to find the best insurance at the best price.
  • Pass legislation requiring transparent medical pricing from providers, including hospitals, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. President Donald Trump suggested this during the recent State of the Union address, with the idea being that competition and price transparency will ultimately drive down costs. Patients should be able to make educated decisions based on real prices of what a blood test costs, what an MRI costs and why one facility might charge you a different price for an Advil than the other.
  • Demand meaningful lobbying and campaign finance reform. Each year, millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the U.S. political system through lobbying and campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a total of $255,635,121 in campaign contributions were made from individuals, political action committees and other sources in the healthcare industry in 2018 alone.
  • Don’t let anyone fool you into calling Medicare an “entitlement” in the derisive sense of the word. You’ve paid into it, and you are absolutely entitled to receive benefits. The alternative would be a full refund of every penny the federal government has ever taken out of your paycheck to fund the program.

So, if you want to receive quality health care in this country, it boils down to this: You better have a job with good benefits or a fat bank account. If not, the message is clear — you’re out of luck.

It’s time for leaders to take on these issues in a meaningful way, not just resorting to partisan talking points. How many people have to die before this happens?