A Golden Retriever at the Vet

Here's to Good Health !

Routine health care should be a fundamental American right.

First, I have read John McCain's and Barack Obama's health care plans on their web sites. Except for a $4000 per family tax credit, McCain's plan barely rises to the level of "tinkering" with the status quo, although to read his web site you would never know it unless you have immersed yourself in this subject matter. A tax credit isn't going to help 122 million Americans who already receive all their federal income taxes back in the form of refunds, let alone the millions more who don't pay enough in taxes to take full advantage of a $4000 credit. Obama's plan is broader and would change the system more, but it still relies too much on the "insurance model" that has turned the United States health care system (and I use that term advisedly) into a morass of inefficiency, expense and bureaucracy (both public and private).

When elected, I will ask Congress to establish thousands of community clinics, where anyone could go for front-line, basic health care for a nominal charge. Public and private health insurers could still sell insurance policies to cover whatever the community clinics could not handle, presumably at much lower cost since they would no longer be paying for routine care. Community clinics (which could be your doctor's office, if s/he signed up to be a clinic) would be similar to the military treatment clinics (formerly dispensaries) that many military dependents are already familiar with. The community clinic is where you would go for a strep throat infection, blood tests and other routine screening tests, inoculations, stitches and sprains and initial diagnoses, instead of to the emergency room where millions of uninsured Americans must now go, at great expense to them and the rest of us, for basic non-emergency care. When needed, the clinics will refer or transport patients to hospitals and specialists where expenses will be paid by a health insurance plan similar to the one proposed by Mr. Obama, at least for the short term. The premiums on these health insurance plans will be much lower, however, because the plans will be spared the cost of providing routine services. I would pay for the clinics by increasing taxes on the profits of health insurance companies, and on the incomes of any doctors and hospitals that choose not to provide community clinic services. This will transfer any cost of transitioning to a new system to the people who screwed it up in the first place, and take the load off of workers and businesses who have borne the expense too long. As the new system squeezes the expense of the bloated bureaucracy out of health care, these taxes will be phased out, giving health care providers an incentive to make the system work.

Space prohibits a thorough discussion of the reasons why the employer-supported, insurance model should be dismantled over time. Eventually, we should have universal health care for all medical needs without insurance companies as costly intermediaries, if only to eliminate the expensive public and private bureaucracy that is built into our current system for rationing care. Community clinics will at least get the insurance companies out of the business of providing routine services. Getting the clinics running will be the task of my first term in office. After we're headed in a new direction, we'll gradually expand the clinics to provide more and more services until we have a true universal health care system, supplemented by private insurance or pay-per-service plans for those people who can afford, and want to purchase, cutting edge therapies from private providers.

In short, if you own an insurance company, or you're a doctor, or you make more money than most other people, you might get some minor relief by voting for McCain. If you are middle class or poor, you'll be better off voting for Obama. If you think it's high time that we start taking care of one another, and to heck with the people who live high off of others' suffering, you'll vote for Cleo.