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Guest Column

January 12, 2013

Obamacare won't cure what ails our system

The United States has a crazy quilt of healthcare systems and a patchwork of reformists’ regulations, and statistics say they have been an expensive failure.

The World Health Organization rates our system 37th for quality. We spend far more per person for healthcare than any other nation. They just announced health costs are 17.9 percent of gross domestic product — and we have shorter life spans and higher infant mortality than most developed nations.

We have socialist healthcare systems for veterans and Native Americans (that is, government-run healthcare). We have a single-payer system for the disabled and the elderly (that is, government-run health insurance). We have 50 different menus of health financing for the very poor.

We have adversarial workers compensation systems for those hurt on the job. Many big employers run their own health insurance systems. Many others buy group plans from among the 1,500 insurance companies. Some individuals buy their own plans. We have some charity clinics, public-health agencies, and school nurses. We have FSAs, HRAs, discount cards, and tax deductions.

The healthcare we get varies dramatically as does “coverage.” Each state regulates some aspects and the feds regulate others. And yet, as 2011 Census Bureau numbers show, 48.6 million Americans didn’t have any health insurance. That’s about one of six Americans.

Enter Obamacare, the misnamed Affordable Care Act. State and local governments are in a frenzy of making new rules and reforms. The signs so far this winter don’t look promising.

In December my spouse and I received a check of $58 from our “insurer,” United Healthcare/Oxford, because of a provision in Obamacare that limits how much insurers can keep for their overhead and profits. Not including co-pays and deductibles, we paid $4,700 to the insurer and my spouse’s employer paid another $21,300. The “insurer” doesn’t have any “in-network” specialists within 60 miles of my home. I guess we can use the $58 to eat out in NYC after we visit the doctor there.

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