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Reporting on the Health Care Problem but Missing the Solutions

MedSave Admin | August 25, 2008

This series of articles by Anthony Gottschlich in the Daytona Daily News is typical of popular media coverage of health care reform. The reporter uses specific examples of people who have been unable to come up with a successful solution to their health care challenges and then jumps immediately into what the eventual outcome might be under each of the Presidential candidates campaign rhetoric. The approach may well sell newspapers, but is simply not useful in addressing the problem. Health care is a "here and now" problem that demands assertive action by each of us affected. Unfortunately these articles encourage individuals to take a wishful "wait and see" approach based on a false hope that our health care problems will somehow vaporize as the result of a future government's imagined actions. We would do well to take a lesson from the "New Deal" reforms where the sociological changes were actually more important in ending the depression than the governmental programs themselves.

A far more useful approach, in terms of addressing the problem, would be an investigation into the various health care options and trends applicable in the example and why the available programs have not been effectively utilized. If such an approach were followed, we might learn that the available solutions are not what the individual (and perhaps also the reporter) desired, and then we could really get to the real underlying truths about health care.

We now are certain, for example, that the majority of those without health insurance could afford available coverage but chose not to enroll. Coverage of the sociological and behavioral components of the issue would show that these are likely to be the most challenging aspects of health care reform. Secondly, a significant number of people struggling with health care are not aware of the best options available in their community. This would highlight the educational component of the problem. Third, media coverage of the most recent market trends would reinforce that health insurance reform is actually happening now, independently from any proposed presidential campaign ideas.

Unfortunately, none of these approaches would sell as many newspapers.

'Our health care system ... is extremely messed up'

> Obama, McCain health care plans | More issues
By Anthony Gottschlich

Staff Writer

Sunday, August 24, 2008

KETTERING - Hers is a typical story in America these days: a working mom with no health insurance who makes too much to qualify for government assistance but not enough to afford a health plan.

So when Vicki Willems of Kettering is ailing, she heads to Reach Out of Montgomery County, a crowded free clinic near Miami Valley Hospital where she has to wait for hours to be seen.

Her 17-year-old daughter Andrea isn't so lucky. She has occasional migraines with blurry vision and numbness on one side of her body - symptoms that need more expensive care.

"The doctor sent her to a specialist and wanted her to have (two) MRIs," said Willems, 46. "Well, that costs $5,000 and I don't have the money for it. So here we are. She's probably not going to get it unless we get Medicaid."

Most polls show Americans list health care among their top three concerns, right behind the economy and Iraq.

Eight in 10 Americans believe the U.S. health care system needs to be changed or completely rebuilt, according to survey results released this month by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on High Performance Health System.

What happens to America's health care system may depend on who is elected president in November. Both contenders, Barack Obama and John McCain, are proposing changes aimed at helping people like the Willemses, but their plans are markedly different.

Obama, the presumptive nominee at this week's Democratic Convention in Denver, would create a new national plan for people who can't find affordable private plans. The Illinois senator would pour billions into subsidies, require that all children have health insurance and expand eligibility for federal-state programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, would offer tax credits - $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families - to offset the cost of insurance. The government would send a check directly to the insurance provider of the consumer's choice.

McCain would fund the proposal, in part, by taxing workers' employer-contributed health premiums, which are currently exempt.

Willems, an assistant to a certified public accountant in downtown Dayton, said she hasn't looked at either plan. She doesn't know what it will take to fix health care in America.

She just knows it needs fixing.

"Our health care system, obviously, is extremely messed up," she said.

'Our health care system ... is extremely messed up'

Tags : health care reform, affordable health insurance

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