Guest Column (4/29/10)

To answer your questions …

April 29, 2010

By Rob Ezerman

In response to Mike Benevento’s “Right to the Point” column on April 22, Mike, thanks so much for inviting a dialogue by asking questions. As a strong single-payer supporter and thus grudging supporter of the weakened, just-passed health care legislation, here are my answers to your questions.

• Your question: “Will purchasing health insurance be mandatory for most Americans? Is it now? Is it right to force people to purchase insurance? If yes, why?”

Answer: Every automobile driver is “forced” to carry insurance. Indeed, we should all be “forced,” for our individual and especially our collective good, to purchase health insurance, as long as provisions are made for those who cannot easily afford the cost. While I’d like to see single-payer health insurance paid entirely out of federal revenues (Value Added Tax?), mandatory coverage is acceptable for the short term.

My question to you: Why not allow drivers to skip buying collision insurance? And don’t forget that many illnesses are contagious or otherwise can affect more than just the individual with the illness — think influenza, for example. Believe me, when I’m driving down the road I pray that the oncoming drivers have good health insurance that pays for preventive services so they are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke while heading in my direction!

• Your question: “Will the federal government play a larger role in health care?”

Answer: Mike, we’re talking about the insurance industry, not doctor-patient relations. We’re talking about payment mechanisms and guaranteed coverage, not federal intrusion in the examining room.

On the contrary, the dollar-hungry insurance industry currently interferes dreadfully with many doctor-patient relationships by studiously using any and all means, however frivolous, to drop coverage of patients at the first sign they might be a cost burden. In fact, that activity is their main profit center and the industry employs thousands and thousands of people whose only job is to scour old records and application forms to find ways to drop client’s coverage.

Every other industrialized (i.e., developed, advanced) country in the world long ago realized that government control of and regulation of the health care insurance industry is cost-effective and necessary. It is crazy to think that for-profit corporations could ever put patients over profits when just the opposite is built into our corporate regulatory structure. Even foreign countries whose governments have gone through conservative phases maintained their “socialist” health insurance policies.

Sorry Mike, but the Founding Fathers could not have envisioned the current health care industry and the need to treat that arena as “commons” from which we all share and benefit. Just as we collectively fund highways, police departments, fire protection services, and just as the federal government has assumed responsibility for most work-place safety regulations and for safety-net programs like Social Security and Medicaid, it is imperative that we move toward federal government takeover of the health insurance industry.

(And I’ve left out the gorilla in the room: the ever-increasing cost of health care in our country, which is perhaps the most visible threat to our financial viability both as individuals and for all of us as a country.)


Rob Ezerman lives in St. George.