Guest Columns

SPRADLEY: ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

If the government makes me buy health insurance, what’s next?

GUEST COLUMNIST

I read with interest Miller Hudson’s article on health insurance and OBAMACARE (Colorado Statesman, Sept. 30, 2011) and could not help myself but submit a response. In my opinion, there are many fatal flaws with his logic. The critically ill do not go uncared for in America today, they are cared for either at the hospital, at community health centers or on a cash basis. Yes, you can still buy health care services with money. I would agree that having some type of insurance is preferable, but many have figured out that you do not have to have insurance in today’s world to have health care. Also, under existing law, if you show up at the hospital in a coma or in an emergency situation, the hospital is required to treat you.

But to get to the bigger issue, I would agree that it is difficult to get individual insurance if you have a preexisting condition, but that issue has been addressed and we don’t need more government influence to address it. We do not need to create a whole government bureaucracy with thousands of additional IRS employees to police our health care with no additional service provided in cities and counties.

The whole debate circles around a significant difference in who is better positioned to make our health care decisions — the government or the individual. The problem with the public option and government run health care is that it puts the government in charge of your health care decisions and by making it mandatory, it is unconstitutional. I would argue that most of us would rather have our doctors making our health care decisions, not the government through regulations of what is the standard of care or length of stay allowed in a hospital for certain conditions. This limits experimental drug and procedures and limits our health care options. Also, if we are required to buy health care insurance, it would be the first time that the government could make us buy something. What is next — health food, exercise bikes, and work out clothes?

However, there is an even more fundamental flaw in the logic of OBAMACARE that is playing out in the health care field right now. By reducing Medicare doctor and providers payments by $500B, we are seeing what happens. More and more doctors are retiring, if they can, or they are not taking new Medicare patients. I know of several people who are currently without primary care physicians. They they can’t get one because of the cuts and planned cuts to Medicare. So to hold that model out as one to follow, quite frankly, is a little scary. The result is if you can’t either get into your doctor or don’t have one, rationing of health care services becomes a very real situation because you can’t get service. So what good is it to have Medicare if you can’t get treated.

This reiterates the whole problem with a one size fits all government model that takes money from everyone to support some who are heavy users and some who are not. Some individuals and families could probably do better with a high deductible plan that is cost effective and a health savings account. Others would do better with a high premium plan. But when government makes all of our decisions, a significant number of people are buying something they do not need or want or can’t afford.

There is another problem with government being in charge of health care and I personally experienced this in New Zealand. If you are in an emergency situation, you are transported with laughing gas and no IV. They have limited equipment to diagnose the problem and when they discovered I had a broken vertebrae, they permitted me to stay overnight at the hospital and gave me a ham sandwich out of a machine to eat. But the next day the doctor said I could stay another day, but he would recommend that I go back home for good care. When I told them what kind of medicine I take, the doctor said “Oh, we wouldn’t have that here, it is too expensive.” That is government-run health care.

While the private insurance market is not perfect — no markets are — if government would reduce requirements on insurance companies selling insurance across state lines, allow groups and associations to band together to buy insurance, and reduce requirements on network plans, we would be better served than with a one-size fits all plan that is unconstitutional because it forces citizens to buy something. It is just plain scary to think of what else they might force us to buy.

Why should government determine what health care I have available to me in La Veta or anywhere. I can tell you we are NOT better served by having more limited access to care and to doctors, which is where we are heading with a one-size fits all plan.

Lola Spradley, Republican, served in the Colorado Legislature from 1997 to 2004. She became Speaker in 2003, the first woman in Colorado to serve in that leadership position.