Cheap Seats 2017
Figuring Out Health Care - 05/10
By Rich Truzpek
There is an aspect of the whole health care debate that we don’t like to talk about, but that we really need to talk about: no matter what type of health care plan the government adopts, every person living in the United States – every single man, woman and child – is, at some point, going to die.
There, I said it. I know it’s a shocker, but hard truths must be faced. Whether you liked Obamacare or hated it, whether you think what the GOP is trying to do is marvelous or insane, no health care plan yet proposed includes immortality as part of the coverage.
So, when we talk about health care, we’re talking about length of life and quality of life. Period. Saying that this aspect of a plan or that is going to cause so many people to die sounds like that would not occur if some other course had been followed.
Like most folks walking the earth, I would like my time here to be as long and pleasant as possible. As a Catholic, I believe I will be translated to another form of existence after death, one that does not involve space or time. What that existence will be like I cannot imagine, but my faith tells me that my soul will be raised to a higher plane. Yet, we fear the unknown, so even those of us who believe in the afterlife would like to maximize our experiences in this corporeal form.
But, how to do that in a manner that is both fair and effective? We must recognize that there are two basic pieces to the health care puzzle: 1) advancing the quality of health care available by continuing research into new procedures, technologies and medications, and 2) getting people access to those new procedures, technologies and medications.
The private sector is very effective at the first task and the public sector, in some ways, is more effective at accomplishing the second in an equitable manner.
People bitch about the high cost of drugs, but the market forces at work drive those costs, not corporate greed. Developing new medications takes an army of PhDs who expect to be well compensated after the years they spent in school.
Many drugs never make it to market. You don’t have successes without risking failure. Some drugs have unintended side effects that result in big lawsuits. All of this, and lots of other factors, make new drugs and technologies expensive, but it is absolutely amazing what modern day medicine is capable of these days.
We simply wouldn’t have made nearly the advances without the private sector doing the majority of the heavy lifting. But, how to pay for it?
Obamacare tried to answer that question and, should it pass in some form, so will Trumpcare. Neither can be a perfect solution because there cannot be a perfect solution. You want good healthcare, somebody has to pay for it. That somebody will always be a mix of public money and private money.
Personally, I’m OK with some public sector money being used to help pay the medical bills of people who can’t afford some of the miracles of modern medicine. But, I am not OK with feeling like we taxpayers are obligated to pay for everything in those cases. That is, to borrow a popular word, not a sustainable model.
The goal ought to be to help out as many people as we can while recognizing that we do so with a limited pool of taxpayer dollars. What the size of that pool should be and what the priorities for spending it on the less fortunate should be are questions beyond my pay grade. I just know we need to be more realistic about what government can and cannot do in this space. I hope we get there.