While all of us wonder how the health care system has reached what some refer to as a crisis phase. Let us try to take some of the emotion out of the discussion by briefly examining how health care in this nation arose and how that has shaped our culture and thinking about health care. With that as a base let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Obama government health care reform proposals and let us look at the concepts put forth by the Republicans? Access to state of the art health care services is something we can all agree is a fantastic thing for this country. Experiencing a severe illness is one of life’s major challenges and to confront it without the capacity to pay for it’s positively frightening. However, as we will see, once we understand the facts, we’ll discover that achieving this goal won’t be easy without our personal contribution.
These are the themes I’ll touch to attempt to generate some sense out of what’s happening to American health care and the measures we can personally take to make things better. A recent history of American health care – what’s driven the prices so high? Crucial elements of this Obama health care strategy The Republican perspective of health care – free market competition Universal access to state of the art health care – a worthy goal but hard to accomplish what can we do? First, let us get a little historical perspective on American health care for it developed. What drove prices higher and higher? In that war, obsolete tactics and the carnage inflicted by modern weapons of this age combined to induce ghastly results.
Not generally known is that the majority of the deaths on both sides of the war were not caused by real combat but to what occurred after a battle wound was inflicted. To start with, evacuation of the injured moved at a snail’s pace and this caused severe delays in treating the injured. Second, many wounds were exposed to wound care, related surgeries, and/or amputations of the affected limbs and this often caused the start of massive infection. So you may survive a battle wound only to die at the hands of health care providers who although well-intentioned, their interventions were often quite deadly. High death tolls may also be ascribed to regular sicknesses and diseases at a time when no antibiotics existed.
In total something like 600,000 deaths occurred from all causes, more than 2% of the U.S. population at that moment! Let’s jump to the first half of the 20th century to get some additional perspective and to bring us up to more contemporary times. Following the civil war, there have been steady improvements in American medicine in the understanding and treatment of particular diseases, new surgical procedures, and in physician education and training. However, for the most part, the best that physicians could offer their patients was a”wait and see” approach. Medicine could handle bone fractures and progressively try risky surgeries (now largely performed in sterile surgical environments) but medications weren’t yet available to deal with serious illnesses.
Nearly all deaths remained the result of untreatable conditions like tuberculosis, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and measles, and/or associated complications. Doctors were increasingly conscious of cardiovascular and heart conditions, and cancer but they had nothing with which to deal with these ailments. This very fundamental review of American medical history helps us to understand that until very recently (around the 1950s) we had practically no technology with which to deal with serious or even minor ailments. Here’s a vital point we will need to know;” nothing to deal with you with means that visits to the physician if at all were relegated to crises so in this scenario costs are curtailed. The simple reality is that there was little for physicians to provide and therefore virtually nothing to induce health care spending.
Another factor holding down prices was that medical treatments that were provided were compensated for out-of-pocket, meaning by means of an individual’s personal funds. Except for the very destitute who have been blessed to find their way to a charity hospital, health care costs were the responsibility of the person. Its effects on health care costs have been and remain to this day, absolutely enormous. When health insurance for families and individuals emerged as a way for corporations to escape wage freezes and to attract and retain employees after World War II, almost overnight an excellent pool of money became available to pay for health care.
Money, as a consequence of the availability of billions of dollars from health insurance pools, encouraged an innovative America to increase medical research efforts. More Americans became guaranteed not only through personal, employer-sponsored health insurance but through increased government funding that created Medicare and Medicaid (1965). Moreover, funding became available for enlarged veterans’ health care benefits. Finding a cure for virtually anything has become very rewarding. This is also the principal reason for the huge variety of treatments we have available now.