Visions of Health Care in America

Sept 9, 2009

It is very difficult amid the warring factions and emotional debates regarding national health care, to see and preserve those liberal and conservative principles that our country stands for.  The real questions of national health care are (1) “can private insurance really compete with government options?” and (2) “should private insurance be permitted to compete with a public option?”

In other words, does it really benefit the country to have competition between private and public choices?  This is not a simplistic question!  Given all the advantages that the Federal government holds in extending health care to government employees and seniors, given a “Patient Bill of Rights,” would Americans benefit both in health care benefits and economic prosperity if insurance companies had their own “Bill of Rights” as well?

The great advantage that the Federal government enjoys, but does not utilize, is the “Deep Pocket.”  The government can call upon vast reserves, thereby offering benefits, including forgiving pre-existing illness, covering expensive medication, procedures (organ transplants, coronary artery bypasses, lengthy hospitalization and expensive cancer treatments, for example).  Despite the insurance industry’s abominable record of providing services to their customers, they would all go bankrupt if they had to deliver all of these services.  This is not a right wing propaganda statement.  I am a die-hard liberal!  This is a fact!

If I were a right wing advocate, I would suggest to the Federal government that they allow the insurance industry some “dispensation” from certain aspects of the Federal Antitrust Laws (certainly no problem for the conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court, which does not seem to recognize this legislation anyway).

Allow the insurance industry to use their entire patient population to negotiate with drug companies, durable goods and oxygen suppliers, laboratories and hospitals, etc.  Permit them to enter a reinsurance program as an entire industry, that is, let them develop a “deep pocket” similar to that of the Federal government.  To ensure an even playing field, in fact, establish “Bill of Rights” rules for hospitals and physicians as well.

The Private insurance industry will not squander six years debating this opportunity as our “beloved” House and Senate are still doing.  In fact, they may well win the competition that they are now so afraid of losing.  Perhaps, in fact, our federal medical entitlement programs might be forced to drastically improve.  Lobbyists might actually find fewer pockets to fill and as more patients use more and cheaper medical products, the economy might actually grow instead of methodically leaching out its healthcare dollars.

Allen Finkelstein, D.O.