Healthcare for all Americans

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Like public education, I believe healthcare should be available to all Americans.

I expressed this a few years ago, and was roundly blasted by some people as being a Republican in name only (RINO). However, like public education, I don’t believe the provision of affordable healthcare should be a partisan issue. It should be available to all Americans. Like education, it should be a right of citizenship.

As we have recently seen, the winds of public opinion have changed on this topic. Now, many Republicans, including the current President and Republican congress, are grappling with how to implement the idea.

They not only want to repeal Obamacare, they want to replace it with a version that will be acceptable to the American people and a majority in the US Congress. They want a healthcare system that will assure coverage to everyone who wants it. They want it to be affordable, comprehensive and effective.

The rub is … how to do it.

Sadly, given the current status of politics in this country, I don’t believe it will ever happen.

Recently, President Trump stated, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.” Are you serious?

Anyone who has ever had surgery and had to wait for their insurance company to pre-approve the procedure and then had to file all the insurance paperwork for pre-operative testing, use of the surgical suite, hospital stay, medications, physician’s charges, anesthesia, follow-up care, rehabilitation, more testing and more medication and more … and more … and more, know just how complicated healthcare can be.

It amazes me that anyone in government would not know how complicated healthcare is. The solution to our lack of affordable, comprehensive and effective healthcare is also going to be – you guessed it – very complicated.

Major changes to the current system will be required. These changes will impact more than doctors and hospitals. It’s going to necessitate changes in how the government and major healthcare insurance companies operate. It will also require major changes in the pharmaceutical industry.

Having spent a lifetime working in healthcare, I believe that we have the best healthcare system in the world. The problem isn’t quality, comprehensive healthcare. We have that.

The problem is affordable healthcare. That we don’t have. One of the reasons we don’t have affordable care is because of the health insurance companies. They all make huge annual profits.

While pocketing their ever-increasing profits, health insurance companies provide millions of dollars annually to politicians in the form of campaign contributions.

It’s difficult to believe that congress is going to regulate an industry that slips money into their pockets every chance they get. That would be tantamount to “biting the hand that feeds you.” I doubt that Congress will ever voluntarily regulate contributions from an industry that feeds them.

This brings us to another industry that lines the pockets of politicians every chance they get – the pharmaceutical industry. Maybe, just maybe, instead of the pharmaceutical industry spending mega-millions developing a new drug and then charging patients mega-mega-millions to get back their investment, the Food and Drug Administration could assume a role in drug development.

Currently, the FDA is primarily responsible for approval of new drugs. The costly job of research and development is performed by the private sector. Then they charge huge amounts of money to recoup their costs.

I don’t have a problem with a company making a reasonable profit, but their profits are enormous. Their donations to politicians are also enormous.

What we need to do to get healthcare reform started is to figure out a way of implementing real campaign finance reform. Efforts have been made to do this dating back over 100 years.

One of the most recent efforts was in 2002. Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold sponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Like other campaign finance reform efforts, their efforts were basically struck down by the courts as a violation of our First Amendment right to do whatever we want with our money.

To sum it up: Yes, Mr. President, healthcare is very complicated.

To solve the problem of affordable, comprehensive, effective healthcare for all Americans you first must address issues that cause the high cost of healthcare – health insurance costs and pharmaceutical costs. That is going to take a bipartisan, political willingness to implement real political campaign finance reform.

That’s where it needs to start and that is going to be very complicated.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist