In my summer hockey session, there are fewer players, so the teams are all jumbled. All four of my linemates are guys I've never played with before. So, I try to get to know them a bit. After the game (a 6-1 win, and a goal by Yours Truly), I spoke with Dan, who is a family practice physician. It was eye-opening, to say the least.
As we were talking generally, he asked me my opinion of the state of health care. My response was simple: Insurance is the problem. It is a middleman taking a share of the cost without adding value, and it makes decisions where doctors should make them instead. I didn't say that I believe in the free market, that socialized health care is unjust, or anything political.
He thought this critique on the role of insurance was right on the mark. Among the loads of tidbits he threw at me, I hung on to these:
Medicare will be insolvent in three years.
Congress knows this, or should, and is passing this political football to the poor sap who is elected President.
The system will collapse because of insurance. It will be overhauled with Medical Savings Accounts, making people notice price for the first time in two generations.
The US devotes 19% of GDP to health care. Economists believe that any economy that devotes 23% of GDP to health care is unsustainable.
These are just one doctor's opinions, and I can't vouch for the precision of the numbers. But, being that these are largely things I had never heard before, or certainly don't hear very often, I found them exceptionally jarring and enlightening.
I found it most insightful that he told me he is glad the race is Obama & McCain, since both of them appear to him to be the kind of people who will shake things up- because the thing that needs to be said is this: "You know how we've been telling you that health care is a right? Yeah, we've been leading you by the nose on that one. It's a load of crap."
I agree with his assessment of the need to come clean, but I really don't think those Obama or McCain are the ones that would do it at all. Both of those appear to be the kind of captains that would be damn glad to go down with their ships- McCain, Iraq; Obama, who talks of expanding socialized health care. I let it go for now about Bob Barr, as there will be opportunity a-plenty.
He then went on about the lousy choices Americans make with regards to food, drink, exercise, and to a lesser degree, smoking; and the resulting Type 2 diabetes he sees regularly in people under 30. His conclusion- you can't have people be completely free of the responsibility to pay for their own choices and have people take on the burden of other people's choices. Economic collapse is the only possible result.
I think I'll have little trouble turning him on to Barr. I sincerely doubt the American people are ready for this news, in the face of all the other bad news raining on us these days.