Mamas on Bedrest: I Am in Favor of A Single Payor Health Care System for the US

March 28th, 2012

We all knew that it was coming. Following the contentious debates over the health care bill and ever since President Obama signed the bill into law, opponents have vowed to fight the individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty and to repeal the law entirely. Cases have been heard in courts around the country and since none of them have come to consensus agreement, the arguments about constitutionality, whether or not the government can make citizens purchase health insurance, whether or not the government can impose a penalty on Americans who don’t purchase health insurance and whether or not that penalty is a tax is being argued before the justices of the supreme court.

The justices first began hearing arguments on Monday, March 26, 2012 and have continued to listen to arguments for three days. The arguments will conclude this afternoon and the justices will cloister together and later render a verdict. The final verdicts and written rationales are expected to be rendered before July of 2012.

I think that few will argue that the health care system in the United States is in trouble and in dire need of an overhaul. The problem is that we as a nation cannot reach a consensus as to what that overhaul should be and how to structure it so that the majority, if not all Americans are insured and have access to quality health care. To date proposed options have ranged from obliterating insurance all together and returning to a fee-for-services system, a national health care system that is funded with taxes but ensures that everyone has access to health care when needed like Canada or in Europe, complete privatization of health care and everyone is responsible for their own insurance or some other as yet undisclosed plan.

I’m going to go on the record and say that I am in favor of a single payer system that gets funded via taxes. Uh, Gasp, what????? Yup, I’ve said it. I believe that the United States should do away with insurance companies and should establish a single payer health care system which is funded by taxes.  Why would I take such a stand? It’s simple. The health of a nation will ultimately determine the wealth of a nation. The United States spends more of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care than most any other country in the world. Yet, we have the highest rates of preventable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. We have the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality amongst industrialized nations (and even amongst many “developing” nations) and we have millions of citizens who don’t have access to affordable, quality health care such that when these individuals do get sick, we as a nation end up paying for them with unallocated funds. In a nutshell, we are going broke under our current health care system. Our current national health care spending cannot be sustained. As a nation, once we cannot ensure the health of our citizens, our nation’s wealth-our natural resources of people power, brain power, innovation, technology, agriculture, etc-will all dwindle away. We will dwindle away. It’s all completely preventable. We have to stop this “I’ve got mine, let the other guy get his own” mentality. We are our brothers and sisters keepers. We have to take care of one another.

When I started Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond I was quite ignorant to the plight of many women who were prescribed bed rest and the financial ruin that many families faced as a result of a high risk pregnancy, pregnancy bed rest and intensive care of premature infants. Increasingly, having a family is becoming a luxury only the wealthy can afford. If a woman works in the service industry as a teacher, a care provider, fast food restaurant manager or other such low paying, poorly compensated jobs she literally cannot afford to become pregnant-let alone have a complicated pregnancy. If she goes on bed rest for more than 12 weeks, she risks loses her job and her family is further pushed into financial constraints. Many women are having to choose between having a job and having a family while loss if either is untenable.

I could launch into a diatribe about why we need paid family leave, but I have spoken liberally about that and will continue to do so-just not in this post. In this post, I want to underscore how many women become high risk as a result of not having access to quality, affordable health care early in their pregnancies. Here, I want to underscore the hoards of women who are panicked because they are on bed rest and don’t know how they’ll make ends meet or how they’ll pay their medical bills. And I want to underscore the extraordinary costs associated with the care of premature infants and children. Oh, I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I could talk about the children who don’t receive immunizations because their parents are uninsured and can’t afford them. The women who go without pap smears and pelvic examination, mammograms or birth control because they can’t afford them and are uninsured. Yet we all pay when they become ill or pregnant and require specialized care. I would gladly pay higher taxes so women can have access to birth control pills rather than pay for unintended pregnancies. I would gladly pay higher taxes if it means that all women receive early access to prenatal care so that their pregnancies can start off well and we can potentially avoid preterm labor and prematurity and prolonged NICU stays for these infants. And with the money saved from not having to fuss with insurance claims and administration, I really think that we as a nation really can afford to provide health care to everyone.

For the past 3 days the justices of the US Supreme Court have been listening to arguments as to whether or not the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate are constitutional and should be upheld. Many Americans want the law repealed and cite “Don’t tell me how to spend my money”. To that I say, don’t ask me for mine or anyone else’s once you get sick. As I see it, we can all pay into the health care pot and share the burden (and actually lower costs). But if you would rather not to contribute to the health care pot, go it alone, have at it. But don’t ask for “your portion” when you’re in need.

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