Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health care reform: are you blue or red?

Tonight I watched President Obama's health care reform speech. I have to say, I was moved. For those who did not or will not get the chance to see the speech, here's a brief recap.

Obama began by explaining the massive expense of US health care at 150% more than any other country in the world. Yet, we're not healthier because of this. And US health care is currently putting "undue" pressure on government health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Insurance costs are rising at 3x the rate of wages, and our health care costs account for 1/6th of the US economy. Obama explains that his reform "builds on what works". The reform suggests further security and stability of health care for those currently insured and a slowed growth of health care costs for businesses, governments, and citizens.

For those with health insurance or receiving Medicare or Medicaid, the reform offers no change in coverage or provider changes. The reform would make it unlawful for insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, or dropping medical coverage for those who develop an illness. The reform proposes no "cap" on coverage for the insured -- for the year or a lifetime. Lastly, the plan would limit out of pocket expenses for those insured.

For those without health insurance due to coverage lost with jobs or those in small businesses, would allow for insurance "shopping" and price comparisons, creating a competition among carriers to lower expenses for individuals seeking health care. A not-for-profit sector would also be available to those without insurance, which less than 5% of Americans are expected to utilize.

For those that choose no health insurance when "affordable options are available", basic health insurance will be required. Obama stated, "consumers do better when there's choice and competition". This can create reduced costs for tax payers by not allowing the system to be worked over by the uninsured.

Large companies must offer insurance or contribute to health care coverage. It was noted that 95% of US businesses will fall exempt from this point.

Key controversies addressed:
- the thought to "kill off seniors" was denied and deemed a lie
- illegal immigrants WILL NOT be eligible under reform

- no federal money will be spent on abortions

And as for funding the health care reform...there would be tax increases for America's richest. There would be NO increase in the budget deficit and NO money used from Medicare. Malpractice reform was suggested as a means of funding, though specifics were not discussed. In brief, the plan is projected to cost $900 billion over the span of 10 years -- less than what was spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan war and less than the tax cuts imposed on America's richest citizens during the Bush administration (which are still in place).

Obama reached all (I hope). He presented several cases of individuals who had health care who have not received the treatment their condition required, or being dropped from their health insurance provider due to their health status or condition. Such instances are tragic and could happen to ANY one of us at any time. Obama closed with sharing thoughts from a letter written by the late Ted Kennedy suggesting health care reform for moral issues above all else.

While I am interested in hearing SPECIFICS on the funding, all-in-all I'm pretty happy with all that was shared. I have to say, whether or not US citizens agree or disagree with our president, there was a complete and utter lack of respect from Congress during the speech. It is despicable that people find that acceptable, or choose to contribute themselves. Health care is a complex topic with no clear-cut solution, but crude opposition rarely gets anyone anywhere fast. 

How do you feel about the suggested health care reform? I am interested to learn more and what role preventative medicine will play in the reform. Please share your thoughts -- are you more blue or more red? I think it's pretty clear where I stand : )


  1. I appreciate the recap, as I did not watch the speech. I like hearing it from an RD's point of view. To be honest, I do not know what I want, or what I believe. All I know is that Obama is right when he says we pay so much on America's health, yet we are not an overall healthy country! We are getting less and less healthy. I trust that he, along with his team, will come up with a plan that will be at least worth giving a try. We have nothing to lose!

  2. I agree with everything you wrote. I am lucky to have health insurance provided through my husband's employer, but it is by no means a perfect system. I was recently diagnosed with a digestive problem and I have been in a fight with our insurance company for more than a month to get a certain medicine my doctor prescribed. People who think our current system has no problems must have never dealt with the bureaucracy of an insurance company. We need reform now.

  3. I'm all with ya on this one. See Nicole...I don't always bust your chops :)

  4. Isn't it a little ironic that the people in support of the reform are IN the health care field? Just sayin'... : )

  5. The unknown and unintended consequences is what scares me. Yes, we need to make healthcare more accessible to people. The current system doesn't work well, but having the government in charge doesn't scream improvement to me. I mean how many other government programs/instituitions do we think work well? efficiently? effectively? One thought I keep coming back to is yes, I like my current coverage and I want to keep it. But if the new gov't plan is so good and affordable for me to participate in, what is in it for my employer to continue with the options I currently have. My understanding (I have not researched it by any means) is that the new bill would allow me to stay with my current healthcare option but doesn't necessarily do anything to keep that option available to me. Does the gov't plan become a monopoly 10 or 20 or 40 years down the road? Where does the private industry go? I have more questions than answers and admitedly have not taken much initiative to get them answered. But just weighing in with another side of the coversation ;).