Times Argus

American health care is an untreated, severe fracture.

Fractures need repair to ensure normal function. “Comminuted” fractures, in which the bone breaks into multiple pieces, are difficult to repair. The more pieces there are, the more difficult the repair.

Our health care system displays the most severe kind of fracture: shattering into many pieces. It’s so bad that we don’t even have an accurate count of the pieces, which include:

— Multiple different government programs.

— Multiple federal laws.

— Multiple state laws.

— Endless variations in employer policies about health care benefits.

— Thousands of different insurance policies from hundreds of different insurers.

— Endless variations in the terms of “coverage.”

— Endless variations in the terms of deductibles and co-pays.

— Endless variations in billing and collection policies of providers.

And all these pieces are subject to change at any time.

Severe fractures cause crippling symptoms, exemplified by the explosion of medical debt, inability to afford care, closure of hospitals and medical practices, growing shortages of doctors and nurses, and the ever-increasing health care costs translating into inflation of the price of all goods and services.

As with a fractured bone, healthy function can only be restored by properly aligning the health care pieces. That is obviously going to be very hard given the severity of the fracture. The longer we wait to begin, the more harm we do to the body.

Fear of the task is no excuse for avoiding it, a lesson the Legislature has yet to learn.

Lee Russ