Health-care reform’s high stakes

Jeff vonKaenel

Health care has never been simple. Choosing treatment and a doctor, running a health-care organization—it’s complicated. But with health-care reform, it has become even more complex. It is like a difficult game of chess, but one where the rules keep changing; the bishops don’t move diagonally, and the knights jump three spaces one day and five on another. And tens of thousands of lives are literally at stake as we figure out how this game will play out.

America desperately needs health-care reform. Although as a nation we pay more than twice as much for health care than most developed countries, there are still more than 48 million Americans without health insurance. In 2010, a study found that more than 26,000 ill or injured Americans died prematurely because of a lack of health insurance. The state with the largest number of deaths was California. This is a national disgrace—and a time bomb.

Despite rock ’n’ roll, the baby boomers will not stay forever young. Our massive numbers are starting to overwhelm the inefficient health-care system. Reform is paramount.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No political compromise is ever perfect. But the ACA goes a long way toward improving health care.

It expands the number of Americans that are covered.

It improves care by simplifying the insurance process and moving to electronic records.

It utilizes community clinics, which have a proven track record of delivering cost-efficient care.

It reimburses health-care providers based on outcomes rather than the number of procedures they do.

The bill’s provisions are critical for moving America toward a more rational health system.

But there are those who stand to lose if health-care reform is successful. Some big losers would be the pharmaceutical companies, with profits of 21 percent to 30 percent; insurance-company executives, who receive huge salaries for a function that does not even exist in many countries; and medical specialists, who make more than most other health professionals. Not surprisingly, those who benefit from the current system are trying to preserve it. And they have the financial and political resources to do so. Much of the misinformation and political opposition to health-care reform comes from these groups.

But fortunately, there are those who have the American people’s best interests at heart: Nonprofits such as The California Endowment, Sierra Health Foundation, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as well as state and federal health- and human-services employees.

These nonprofits and government employees are, as a group, incredible public servants doing a thankless, difficult job. While others try to protect their own interests, these nonprofits and government employees are trying to protect another group: the American people. I, for one, am very grateful for them.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.