Commentary

This morning’s must read: N&O editor on why we need universal health insurance

Health careSometimes, journalists do their best and most important writing when they share trials and travails from their own lives. Such is the case this morning in the “Focus” section of Raleigh’s News & Observer in an  important story by Burgetta Eplin Wheeler entitled “The many agonies of our health care nonsystem.”

In the article, Wheeler uses her own college-age son’s recent and absurdly expensive experience in an emergency room to explain and expose the madness of America’s dog-eat-dog, everyone for him or herself health care system.

After documenting the crazy costs of his (insured) visit, she says this:

“A large reason it’s this complicated, costly and exasperating is because we refuse to just cover everyone. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have universal health care.

It’s unfathomable that critics seem unwilling to acknowledge that they are paying for others anyway. They are paying for it in headline-grabbing higher insurance premiums. They are paying for it in $100 IV bags in the ER. They are paying for it in Affordable Care Act subsidies.

And they are paying for it when a beloved son leaves $1 million in unpaid medical bills that must be absorbed in 100 hidden ways when a $1,000 colonoscopy might have saved his life had he been able to be insured.

“In the end, we still pay for this care,” Leslie Boyd said in a recent blogpost for WNC Health Advocates, an Asheville group she founded after the death of her son, Mike Danforth, from colon cancer at age 33. ‘My son’s surgeries, chemo and radiation cost taxpayers nearly $1 million, when we could have saved his life for about $1,000 a year. When you allow someone to go without needed preventive care and chronic disease management, they become very sick – and very expensive.’”

What’s, of course, must maddening about all of this is the blindness and disregard for facts that opponents of universal coverage continue to display. Here’s Wheeler:

And there’s the crux. Even those who can’t seem to summon up some compassion can appreciate that covering everyone simply cuts down on costs in myriad ways….

In Britain’s entirely nationalized system, the one with all of those No. 1 ratings, doctors work for the government and the hospitals are owned by the government. Like a lot of countries, it uses a value-added tax to fund social services, [the N.C. Health Access Coalition’s Adam] Linker said, with the idea being to have a whole lot of people paying a little bit of tax on a whole lot of things.

In other words, they pay for everyone’s health care in small amounts when buying services rather than in ridiculous amounts in the ER….

One way or another, we’re all paying. The bottom line is that we are choosing to be a country that perversely prefers to spend $1 million on medical bills for the dying rather than $1,000 on a colonoscopy for the living.”

Click here to read Wheeler’s entire story.

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