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October 2nd, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Health Care Reform: How Many People Would It Really Help?

Health care reform is a very heated topic right now—unless you’ve been asleep for the past few months, that’s no surprise to you.  I believe the problem is figuring out the truth.  We’ve all heard about the general ideas that are in the House and Senate versions of the proposed bill, but it seems almost impossible to get definitive answers out of anyone.

The initial spark for health care reform appears to be the number of uninsured people living in America.  However, while there’s no denying that many are in fact uninsured, the number itself is up for debate.  Lately, it’s been proclaimed that 45 or 46 million Americans are uninsured.  I’m no politician or statistician, but that seems pretty hefty even to me.

How Many Are Uninsured?

First, the most recent survey conducted by the Census Bureau reports that 9.7 of that 46 million are not American citizens—another source of debate that we’ll get to momentarily.  Also, there’s always a margin of error with every survey.  Some people answer the questions asked of them honestly, some may have reported being uninsured that ended up becoming insured sometime after the survey, and others may have outright lied.

According to, Blue Cross Blue Shield estimated in 2003 that of the reported uninsured population, 14 million were actually eligible for some form of health care including Medicaid.  18.3 million were under 34.  17.6 million were earning over $50,000 annually and 9.1 million were earning over $75,000 annually.  This leaves a high probability that some of these people could likely afford health care but chose not to buy it, perhaps believing that because of the high cost, they would do without while still young, healthy, and theoretically not in need.

From this entire study, Blue Cross determined that 8.2 million people were uninsured because they truly could not afford it, yet they earned just enough that they did not qualify for government assistance.  Granted, this was 2003—but could the true number of uninsured people jump to 46 million in 6 years, even with a recession?

Abortion Issues

The debate also seems to include some moral issues such as abortion and coverage to illegal immigrants.  Regarding abortion, the House bill has been reported to state that the government health care would have to provide one plan that covers abortion and one that does not.  Politicians are saying that people with the plan will not be paying for others’ abortions, yet every time it has been proposed to have this in writing, that version has been rejected.  No matter my or your stance on abortion, the constant waffling is what I find to be the absolute most frustrating part.

Coverage for Illegal Immigrants?

There is also no solid stance on whether illegal immigrants would be able to take part in the government health care.  Ann Coulter writes on her website that in Section 246 of the 1000-page bill, one sentence is devoted to this issue: “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”  At the same time, there is nothing requiring doctors or other persons providing the actual health care to validate citizenship.  You also run into the problem of the emergency room, where federal law requires that patients in need of immediate attention cannot be denied treatment due to lack of insurance.  Could/should medical staff be required to check citizenship in this situation?

Is the Public Option Really An Option?

Then we have the problem of the health care reform being referred to as the “public option” that doesn’t sound officially optional.  Obama has insisted that if you like your private insurance and your doctor that you may keep them both.  But an issue arises if your insurance is provided through your employer.  Employers would be given incentives to offer the government plan to their employees instead of a private plan.  I don’t know what those incentives would be, but if your employer makes the switch, you may have no choice, especially when it would likely be more expensive to keep your private insurer by yourself.

There’s talk that the House version of the bill would mandate all individuals to purchase health care or pay a penalty of 2.5% of their gross income.  So you’ll pay money for absolutely nothing until you can afford to purchase health care?  If you’re already struggling, I’m not convinced this will help anyone.  Ann Coulter also mentions that if you’re not paying either, you can be cited for tax evasion and thrown in jail.  I sure hope that’s not true, but it also makes me wonder how each and every person will actually be tracked down.  And if you’ll really be thrown in jail alongside burglars and murderers who truly deserve to be there, that’s extra tax dollars being used to fund now-overcrowded prisons.  (Oh, and if you’re a small business owner, you’d also be penalized if you don’t offer insurance to your employees.)

I don’t propose to know everything about the health care reform or to fully understand it.  There is so much out there about this subject and so many extremely strong opinions in both directions.  Pepper in the unclear nature of the bill itself in its current form and it becomes harder to decipher the truth.  Would government-provided health care be a good idea?  Obama mentions stretching out Medicare benefits to everyone in a way, but Medicare already seems to be struggling with reports of wasted dollars and impending cuts.

I believe that something does need to be done about health insurance, but I’m not sure a full government takeover is the answer, especially not in the form that it’s currently being presented.  I do agree that the “pre-existing condition” clause needs to be done away with, and that is supposedly in the bill somehow—illnesses and current health situations are the main reason people need insurance in the first place.  Perhaps simply regulating the cost of health care would be a better idea than creating an entire government health plan.  Let’s level the playing field so that an MRI no longer costs $100 at one place and $3000 at another, and the patient knows what they’re paying or what portion they’re ultimately responsible for from the get-go.

Or we could all just be included on the health care plan that Washington politicians get.  Apparently it’s the best one out there…

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