BOBBY HARRISON: We have universal care in the U.S. – just not insured

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The question a Mississippi newspaper asked was a simple one: “Should all American citizens have health care coverage?”
The answer was a resounding no – by a 69-31 percent margin.
Granted, this poll was not scientific. Anybody with a computer logged into the newspaper’s Web site could answer.
But how could anyone answer no?
Before people start accusing me of taking away their freedom or of being a communist or Nazi, or both, let me stress I am not talking about the health care bill President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign into law today.
There is room for legitimate disagreement about the content of that bill.
What I am talking about is a poll question – should all Americans have health care coverage?
A relative who shall remain nameless works at a job where he does not have health insurance.
This unnamed relative is young and healthy, but thanks to my persuasion has bought a health insurance plan. This person, without my gentle nudging, would not “waste” his money on a health insurance policy. He doesn’t think he needs it.
But God forbid, one serious automobile accident, one broken leg suffered during a Sunday afternoon basketball game would result in medical bills that this unnamed person would never be able pay.
I am not worried about this unnamed relative not receiving medical treatment because in reality we already have universal health care in this country.
If a person shows up at an emergency room, with or without insurance, the hospital is obliged to provide treatment.
If that person can’t pay the bill, those costs are ultimately passed on to others through higher health insurance premiums and through higher health provider fees.
The responsible, accountable thing to do is to have health insurance.
This country has made the decision that if a person has dire health problems, some semblance of care is going to be administered. Unfortunately, under our current setup, the care that person often will receive is the most expensive – emergency room care.
Perhaps the question the newspaper should have asked is: Do all Americans deserve health care?
Because if the answer to that question is no, we could save a lot of money and shut down this contentious debate. Then, if people suffering debilitating illnesses were found disabled, instead of allowing them to be placed on the Medicaid rolls, we simply would allow nature to run its course.
That would save the states and the federal government literally billions of dollars.
And if someone had a wreck, emergency responders could look for a health insurance card before deciding on a course of action.
If the person had health insurance, he or she could be taken to the nearest emergency room for the best medical care in the world.
And let me stress that I think that is what we are capable of providing here.
But if that person did not have health insurance, we could allow nature to run its course. If that course led to death, we could call a family member to take care of the remains. If the family member didn’t come, we could scrape the remains off the pavement and head directly to the nearest crematory.
That would be much cheaper than the cost of treating an uninsured wreck victim.
That common sense approach could apply to cancer victims, heart attack victims … The list goes on and on.
But, thus far, our society has stated through its leaders, that all Americans do deserve some type of health care – even if it is very expensive emergency room care when the situation is at its worst.
Will things work better if the bill passed by Congress is enacted?
That, I supposed, is what we are about to find out.

Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau chief in Jackson for the Daily Journal. Contact him at bobby.harrison@djournal.com or (601) 353-3119.