Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Health Care Debate

After traveling for several weeks visiting family in the Texas area as well as Boston, we are now back in Boulder enjoying peace and quiet and beautiful weather. It was great to see the family in Texas and Boston, but the trip was very strenuous as we drove 2600 miles not counting the flight from Dallas to Boston and back. The photo shows a fiddler at the Big Texan in Amarillo, one of our favorite stopovers between Colorado and the Dallas area.

In all of this time I've been following on the New York Times and online the health care debate. I realized that I missed many of the talking heads on the standard television shows informing us as to the different opinions of everyone. My own thought on this debate is that something needs to change, and I really hope that Pres. Obama will get a health care bill out of his five committees that will be very useful and very important for the American people. Having spent the last 11 years in Germany, where everyone is required to have health care and the government steps in when someone can't afford it, it is almost impossible to realize that there are so many millions of Americans that do not have health care. In my own family circles both my father and my brother have run businesses in which they could not afford to provide health care for their employees. In such small family-run businesses the biggest issue seems to always have been paying payroll taxes on behalf of the employees (which is required by law), and these payroll taxes, of course, are the backbone of Social Security and Medicare. It will be great when small businesses will be able to link together in some manner to be able to qualify for the group rates that work for large corporations and organizations.

I have been using Medicare as a health insurance for the past several years, and have found it very workable and affordable. When I was in Germany I paid for private health insurance which was much more expensive, and also effective. I could have opted for a cheaper plan in Germany and the idea of having a choice is I think very important. Health costs have to come down and I will give one example of extreme inefficiency. I've been in Boulder for two years now and in the that time we have had four family doctors. The turnover was amazing, but it all made sense for the reasons that it happened. One of the doctors went to Germany to follow her husband, another went to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a special internship for two years at Harvard, and a local office closed down and the doctors in that office had to move to either a local hospital or out in the suburbs and one of our doctors chose the suburbs! Thus we have a new doctor, and that's fine. In all of this time the good medical assistant Tom never changed. He was always there as the doctors shifted. Also quite amazing. The bad part of all this is that every time we got a new doctor my wife and I had to fill out new forms with our medical history. It seemed that it was impossible for the clinic to retrieve the records (even though it was the same office with the same loyal receptionist who'd been there before). This seemed to be an unfortunate waste of time and resources. I think communication is the key to most enterprises today, and the medical industry needs to improve the communication channels between doctors and patients, insurance companies, and all others involved. This would save an enormous amount of money, I'm sure, and it is one of the things the president Obama has always mentioned in his discussion of health care reform. I did take the time to watch president Obama's 50 minute speech on health care, and I recommend it to everyone. A powerful speech, and one could learn much from it.

One final footnote on the debate that was so very silly. I heard that one of the political statements from a very conservative senior citizen was the following: "I don't want the government messing with my Medicare!" Well Medicare for everybody would not be that bad. The financing is the real issue.

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