Time Argus

By Mary Alice Bisbee

“A health care system that financially punishes the ill.” The above quote is one I found on the internet today. This is the system the United States of America has devised over many years. Does it make sense to you or anyone that we should penalize sick people for being sick? Is this the way a democratic republic should work? Not to me, it doesn’t. And yet, that is just what the “powers that be” seem to think is equitable.

Who are these “powers that be?” How did things get this way? When I was young, the doctor was usually self-employed, set her/his own prices, and collected her own payments. The doctor usually knew the family, made house calls, and might even accept in-kind payments for services.

Today, doctors and other health care providers usually work for a vast entity, perhaps a hospital or community health center, or a large corporation. Payment is decided and collected by highly paid administrators who have no knowledge or interest in the patient’s ability to pay, only in ensuring their entity makes a profit and covers their expenses. No wonder health care workers have to form unions now, even doctors.

Yes, now our country is able to ensure much better outcomes for severe illnesses as long as the individual has the money to pay for the best treatments. If you can’t pay, you do without which sometimes means death or bankruptcy, or both. Think about it.

Perhaps a single-payer system that pays for health care like other public and human services through a highly progressive tax system would be preferable. Why should corporations or Wall Street investors be receiving profits from expensive health care procedures and services while poor individuals are driven into poverty and bankruptcy?

Also, what about all the compassionate young people deciding on a career? Is it any wonder health care is not at the top of their list in the greatest country in the world, the good old United States?

Mary Alice Bisbee lives in Montpelier.