Universal Healthcare? Yes, Please!


By Guest Blogger: JASMINE RAFATI – Iran

When I was in France couple of years ago, I got very sick and had to spend some time in the hospital. The French healthcare system, a complex mix of private and public financing is reputed to be one of the most effective systems in the world. (In the last global rankings by the World Health Organization [WHO] on healthcare, France was ranked #1, Iran #93, and the U.S., #37.)

However, my experience wasn’t great to say the least…although I went to two of the biggest hospitals in Paris. Beds and pillows were covered in plastic. A cotton sheet was laid over the plastic, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from sweating and as a result, I felt sicker and even more nauseous. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and so many doctors and residents examined me, I felt like a lab object.  When I flew back to the U.S., I was still sick and went to the hospital immediately. I can tell you, I have never been happier to be in a hospital. I felt the difference right away.

At the time of my hospitalization in France, I was skeptical about a health system similar to that of the French. However, when my insurance payments for health and dental went up to about $700 a month and I started receiving piles of hospital bills and invoices with reminder balances that these were my responsibility, my opinion changed.

Now I do appreciate a system such as the one in France, where healthcare is available to everyone. French people pay a premium on their pay and when they go to the hospital, they provide their social ID number (similar to our social security number) and receive almost all medical care free of charge. Thus, they don’t have to deal with a flood of hospital bills like we do in the U.S.; not to mention our lovely co-pays and the percentage of the total bill that is the patient’s responsibility. However, I would like to have this system without sacrificing the quality of the service provided to patients.

In Iran, my country of birth, the government provides every citizen with access to social security that covers health and mental treatment and care services. The healthcare system is controlled and run by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOHME). As employers, my parents had to cover some of the insurance fee for themselves and their employees, while the government covered the rest.

Even though Iran was ranked #93 by WHO, I believe that healthcare for the Iranian people is provided at a much lower cost-to-earnings ratio than for us here in the United States.

In fact, many Iranian-Americans still go back to Iran for health and dental care. Even though most of them have insurance here as well, they believe that going to doctors in Iran is cheaper than paying their premiums on U.S. hospital bills. I cannot tell you the number of people I have heard voicing their worries over healthcare for themselves and their families in the U.S.

A friend told me that no one will go bankrupt in France because of an illness like they do here. American insurance companies get to charge us whatever they want and deny us coverage for normal things like “pre- existing conditions.” There are people who have lost everything because the insurance company did not cover a family member’s cancer treatment. I know personally of a relative who had a transplant. Her life and that of her family were greatly altered because of the heavy burden of transplant-related expenses.

The Obama-Biden health plan would allow us to keep our current health insurance (if we wanted to). The only change would be a decrease in cost for that coverage. A significant amount of money is wasted on the administration part of the present healthcare system. A change in the system would make the process more efficient. It would also improve accessibility to preventative healthcare.

The price of prescription drugs is growing, primarily because pharmaceutical companies want quick, exaggerated payouts to recoup their investment in the development of a pioneering new drug; so most put a very high premium on what U.S. patients pay. The same drug may be cheaper in other countries, such as Canada. The Obama-Biden health plan would allow us to be able to purchase our drugs from other developed countries.

With the recent bi-partisan healthcare summit at Blair House, both parties were able to offer their opinions. Democrats and republicans alike raised concerns regarding Medicare, insurance reform issues, and health savings accounts. The parties seemed to be on the same page as far as the increasing health premiums, pre-existing conditions, life time annual caps, and kids on parents’ insurances till they are 26. However, these are two fundamentally different groups and I felt that they each wanted to reach their goals in their own way.

Democrats’ main objective is to expand and extend the coverage to Americans who lack insurance. They also would like to put more regulations on insurance companies. They believe an increase in competition will occur as a result of these changes.

Republicans seem to be putting the emphasis only on increasing the competition. They believe that increased competition would decrease the cost of premiums, which in turn would make insurance accessible to more people.

Each side sought to make its case. Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin read a letter he had received from a farmer in Iowa. The farmer complained about the health insurance premium increase of $193.90 monthly which equaled a 14.6% raise. He mentioned that healthcare costs are out of control and as a self-employed individual, he felt powerless. By the time this farmer reaches Medicare age, his premium will cost him $42,000.00 per year. Due to a pre-existing condition, he has been denied access to a more economical insurance plan and therefore he is stuck in an expensive pool with few options. He pleaded to congress to pass a comprehensive healthcare reform resulting in affordable coverage for all.

Senator Harkin mentioned that the bill includes 147 distinct republican amendments.  “On the issue of the health insurance reform, of the 10 key elements in the house bill, we have 9 of them in our bill,” he said.  The senator doesn’t believe in an incremental approach. He mentions that segregation on the basis of one’s health is still allowed in this country today. He believes that is time to stop segregating people on the basis of their health. I agree.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander sought to lay out the party’s ground rules, which are to start over from scratch and stay away from reconciliation – the dreaded process that bypasses the Senate’s rule of 60 votes being needed to end debates, requiring only a majority vote to advance a bill. Republicans have warned of severe political consequences if Democrats go that route.

During this first ever bi-partisan summit on healthcare, President Obama was in command and dominated most of the debate, but there were moments of great interchange.

Senator Alexander refuted President Obama on several of his “facts.” Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic senate majority leader, then told Alexander “you’re entitled to your opinions, but not your own facts.”

My favorite part, however, was Obama’s dismissal of Senator John McCain’s remarks about the promise of change in Washington by saying: “Let me just make this point, John, we’re not campaigning any more. The election is over.” To which Senator McCain, his 2008 rival for presidency, replied, “Well, I’m reminded of that every day.”   To which I would like to reply, “Senator McCain it has been over a year. Get over it already and concentrate on the task in hand. We love our president.”

Although a long process, the exchange at Blair House was a good start.

In his closing remarks, President Obama, said that both sides agree on some of the goals of a health care exchange and that both sides agree on a need for insurance market reforms, even though there are some disagreements over the specifics.

I have to mention that while I support universal healthcare, I am still quite puzzled about the financing of the Democrats’ $950 billion dollar plan. I, like many other Americans, am anxious and confused about the cost and it would be beneficial and reassuring to get an in-depth explanation of the proposed financing of the plan.

In the meantime, in a society where the cost of healthcare has been rising faster than wages, with many people lacking good insurance coverage, and where healthcare is not an option to everyone, I hope that President Obama’s plan to offer lower cost healthcare and making it accessible to everyone is a solution.

43 Responses to “Universal Healthcare? Yes, Please!”

  1. haydendrive says:

    Health care reform is long overdue and if Obama needs to go the reconciliation route, then so be it. Republicans are just playing politics while the nation is suffering. How can you politicians live with yourselves knowing that people are dying out there or going bankrupt because of medical bills they can’t afford. Shame! Shame! Shame! on you. We could learn a thing or two from other countries where they put their citizens first.

  2. Mike O. says:

    You gave us an idea of the healthcare system in France and Iran and that was great to know these things, but you did not tell us enough about what exactly you like about the Obama plan. How do you feel about a public option? The impact on medicare or on small business owners? These things should have been addressed more than all the stuff about the senators at the healthcare summit. As a small business owner, the plan is going to wipe me out and I think we need to start afresh on healthcare.

    • Jasmine says:

      Dear Mike
      Thank you for your comment. Health care is a very complicated subject and I am still learning about different aspect of this health care plan.
      Public health care option would give a choice to individuals and employers to choose between a government provided healthcare and a private healthcare. In this option, the government is not the sole provider of healthcare and therefore, the competition would stay alive. I like this because it will allow me to choose.
      Obama’s plan exempts small businesses from the requirement to provide health care benefits or contribute to the costs of the national plan. The plan didn’t specify the requirement of what constitutes a “small business” however; the following is the definition of it by the Small Business Administration:
      “The Small Business Act states that a small business concern is “one that is independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation.” The law also states that in determining what constitutes a small business, the definition will vary from industry to industry to reflect industry differences accurately.
      As far as Medicare, I believe that the taxes would increase 0.9% on the households that earn more than $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for joint-filers.
      Again thank you for your opinion and please write back soon

  3. blakedoctor says:

    There is a great explanation of the public option at http://laist.com/2009/08/21/the_healthcare_reform_public_option.php. It’s clear and to the point. I think you’ll find it helpful.

  4. Tommy3543 says:

    I think they need to start all over with healthcare. Obama means well, but the price tag is too high.

  5. eddanger says:

    No one is denying that healthcare reform is needed, but the present bill that Obama has presented is too expensive for an already fragile economy and there has to be something better. The Republicans don’t seem to be helping the cause either with their desire to protect the insurance companies. At least the Attorney General in California didn’t buy the insurance company lobbyists trying to sneak in premium increases for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield when they recently tried to raise rates 39 percent. The Attorney General told them, hold up, we’re going to have to investigate this. That was good, because insurance companies have raised rates every year and no one has said a word until now. Also, denying coverage for pre-existing conditions is the lowest of the low. Where is the conscience?

    • Jasmine says:

      eddanger

      I am one of those people who were denied coverage because of pre-existing condition. It is a burden when you have to pay for your own insurance and it is up to $700 per month.

  6. kevincolumn says:

    I liked your article, Jasmine. We need something. Anything. This should not be about politics or political party, or politicians performing for the camera, but about the American people, all of us who need health care coverage, and businesses who need to be able to afford health care for their workers. We need to send a strong message to Congress about where we stand and it should not be along political lines.

  7. Generic says:

    Pelosi talks about not really caring how we get to health, we just have to get there. But that’s troubling because the end doesn’t justify the means. We cannot afford to make any mistakes with this reform and certainly on this fragile economy.

  8. hi5me says:

    Harry Reid needs to just go away.

  9. birdbreath says:

    loved it when Obama told McCain that the elections have been over and he should pay attention to the task at hand. McCain acts like he is the leader of this country with everybody asking his opinion on things and Obama slapped him right back into place – right back at the back of the bus where he should stay!

  10. artisan33 says:

    Too much politics is going on in Washington and not enough of the people’s business. I’m not sure if Obama’s plan is the right one, but what we have right now ain’t working. We have to hold our representatives accountable and force them to represent our interests, which is why they are in Washington in the first place.

  11. wyattdesign says:

    Jasmine, my heath insurance was up to $700 a month as well and I don’t have any preexisting condition. I want to change my plan or even the insurance company but i can’t find anything that can give me the coverage i have for less money. i don’t know what to do because i really cannot afford the monthly premiums any longer and I’m afraid to be without coverage. This healthcare problem is no longer acceptable and we need to make our voices heard against all those who are for the insurance companies.

  12. bottoms up says:

    The Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform.

  13. Julia says:

    I enjoyed your article. Thank you for the interesting perspective.

  14. SimonD says:

    I’ve been reading all the comments here and I wonder if anyone here has actually read Obama’s health care reform plan to come to their own conclusions or are your views based solely on what you read or hear about from pundits and the mass media? Jasmine, have you read that plan?

  15. johncoast says:

    Republicans are up in arms about the Democrats’ move toward reconciliation. Democrats contend that in the past Republicans have regularly used the tactic to pass legislation they prefer. History shows that with the tables turned, Republicans have embraced the process of reconciliation. According to the Los Angeles Times and Yahoo News, since 1981 reconciliation has been used 22 times: 8 times by Democrats and 14 by Republicans, including for President George W. Bush’s big 2001 tax cut. LESSON: people in glass houses should not throw stones.

  16. charlescenturion says:

    Please, please, please………pretty, pretty please

    Call or go to your congressmans local office and tell him or her to say no to any form of the current health care bill.

    DO NOT STAND BY IDLY AND ALLOW THIS TO PASS!

  17. No to Healthcare says:

    The Obama/Reid/Pelosi team is a fascist regime that doesn’t want you to find out the TRUTH! Do your homework. Don’t be duped socialism is on its way.

  18. WinkWink says:

    It’s true, republicans are in bed with the insurance companies, and for me, when you lay in bed with dogs, you get fleas.

    54 Republicans benefit from a public option known as Medicare. Yet all 54 of them oppose a public option that would help millions of taxpayers who are denied coverage by private insurers.

  19. keith King says:

    People are dying every year due to lack of health care coverage – it is estimated that more than a quarter million adults will die over the next 10 years due to lack of health care insurance.

    No other major country has a health care payment system where people die because they do not have coverage or where people have to declare bankruptcy because of high medical bills not covered by insurance companies whose only focus is profit at any cost.

  20. Brian Gosher says:

    All those in Congress that oppose healthcare reform that calls the insurance companies to accountability needs to have their fabulous healthcare coverage taken from them and see what it feels like to deal with those greedy insurance companies.

  21. Sandra: Co-Founder of this Blog says:

    Congratulations, Jasmine on your first article for this blog. You’ve gotten some interesting comments, which shows that people are passionate about this healthcare issue. I, personally believe that there has to be something better than what we have now. I, too, pay high premiums and I’m not happy about the coverage I receive. As I told my carrier recently, I pay PPO prices but seem to be getting HMO service, since more and more things that were previously “routine” now have to be pre-approved. SimonD brought up a good point on this post. Interestingly enough, with the exception of just one person, I have found that most people who are up in arms about this healthcare issue have not read the proposed plan, but are just regurgitating what they hear from talking heads on television and radio. Obama’s plan may not be perfect, but apart from Clinton’s efforts, it’s the first serious attempt I have seen to address the healthcare needs of the American people since I’ve been in this country. Politicians seem to be trying to score brownie points by grandstanding instead of looking engage in serious/meaningful discussion on the issue. In the end, we, the American people are the ones who lose, not Congress. Even if some of them lose their seats, they still have the best healthcare coverage for themselves and their families.

  22. Annoyed says:

    If republicans and democrats really want government and bureaucrats to get out of the healthcare business, what would happen to their own coverage – isn’t it the same government that runs the cushy health care coverage they enjoy as government officials? Why does it work for them and it won’t work for the average American? Oh, I get it. It’s too good for us.

  23. Levia says:

    why isn’t there more discussion about a public option.

  24. theodoreblower says:

    President Barack Obama’s health care plan is wildly unpopular with the American people. Today, NBC News/The Wall Street Journal released their latest poll showing that 48% of Americans believe President Obama’s health care plan is a bad idea. Only 36% of Americans are willing to call the plan a “good idea”. If this bill passes, I and other independents will vote out many house members in November. Never has something this big passed with such intense opposition by the American people. I can’t believe this is happening in this country in the 21st century!

    Jasmine, I respect the views you have expressed in this article, but this is just not the right health care bill for the American people.

  25. billybob says:

    Yes, members of Congress opposed to the healthcare plan should reject their government proviced health insurance and insted apply for private coverage. Let’s see how they would like dem apples.

  26. DevinCercle says:

    If we continue down a path of mandated comprehensive insurance we are headed toward disaster. The democrat plan will only lead to socialized medicine. Healthcare reform is Socialism and is the gateway to Communism. Call your Congressman or woman and tell them to vote this down!

  27. CarlWendt says:

    Obama and his “cohorts” want to try and ram this monstrosity of a bill down our throats, whether we want it or not! Read our lips – THE MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DON’T WANT THIS BILL!! It’s a sham and the only way that the democrats can get this bill passed is through the “reconciliation” process, which shows these idiots don’t care about what the American people think anyway. Do we really have to wait until 2012 to have the next presidential elections? Oh wait! We can still get rid of the little fish in November. Be warned, Congress!

  28. FraggleRock says:

    Democrats are a JOKE!

  29. diegobella says:

    Obama haters, get over it. He’s the man, the big man on campus, the nobel prize winner, the world’s most admired leader, the president of the United States whether you like it or not. Healthcare is going to pass and all of you are going to have to put on a disguise as you knock each other down to shamelessly scramble for the universal coverage. Obama really cares about the American people and he just has to stick to his guns and not give in to the racist idiots out there. Yes, I said it, “racist” idiots. Thank you.

  30. chase says:

    Obama rocks!!

  31. Trista says:

    Almost every poll says that the American people overwhelmingly do not want this bill. This is still a predominantly bible believing country and we don’t want anything that allows the government to fund abortions. Those who say that this is not so, then why would Planned Parenthood be supporting it? Use your brains and don’t be brainwashed. Stupak should not give in. Stupak, don’t be stupid.

  32. lameduck says:

    Sad day for America.

    Though the people support the government; the government should not support the people.
    Grover Cleveland

  33. Ben says:

    Hey, the debate is over. Stop spreading hatred and anger and encouraging violence. At the end of the day, we are all Americans but we are becoming a nation divided. How stupid is that – over health care?

  34. Tila says:

    Great Blog! Well written.

  35. effoltsimu says:

    Do you really know what you’re talking about? Obama is taking the country to the dogs. Get a grip and join the tea party revolution.

  36. Boston Ben says:

    All that fuss about universal healthcare and now…nothing. People have moved on until such time as Sarah Palin and the republicans stir them up again for their own political gain. I like Bill Maher’s comments on the whole thing. Also Chris Rock.

  37. Kirsten Thomson says:

    Too bad I only stumbled upon this blog now, or I would have commented earlier.

    Jasmine — very thoughtful post. But if only it could be true (and I mean that kindly). I respectfully disagree with the premise that universal healthcare would be better.

    I’m on the periphery of the medical world (Hubby is in med school!) so I’ve learned a lot (okay, ad nauseum — and much more than I can present in this initial post) about the physician angle of this bill.

    The physicians are the ones providing care and they couldn’t be more enraged. I don’t know about you, but this fact alone scares me. A disgruntled, overworked, underpaid (it’s true in primary care!) physician is MORE prone to make mistakes, then get sued, and then leave the profession entirely.

    Just look at Dr. Cassel. Sure, he just got owned on Anderson Cooper 360 (see it on youtube), but Dr Cassel has a valid point! Patients will come see him despite his silly sign because of the law of supply and demand. He is running a business and probably feels that healthcare is a service you pay for. Nobody has a right to HIS brand of care, so they are free to go elsewhere. Jerk or not, his attitude kinda reminded me of less charismatic Hugh Laurie playing “House” — *swoon* — but I digress.

    The government telling them what to do is the bottom line of why physicians are angry. This will happen because of money. This bill is expensive as you have said and physicians will have to cut corners some how to save hospitals and insurance companies money.

    The restrictions will come in many forms that will remain scarily invisible to your average patient, and these restrictions will compromise care.

    THIS is why you should care about physician opinions. Ultimately, the doctor has your life in their hands. Not Obama. Not your lawyer. Some random, disgruntled, tired, underpaid doctor.

  38. jethro says:

    All socialism/leftist government are going to collapse. Iceland is in a mess and the U.S. is following suit with this new healthcare plan and the huge government and big budgets. Obama is printing money like crazy and the debt interest as well as the devalued dollar may leave us soon to be envious of Icelands predicament.

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