COMMENTARY: Let's get down to business of fixing health care

Health care in the U.S.A. is not healthy. We have the most expensive health care in the world and yet we rank only 37th in the quality of the health care we provide, right behind Slovenia.

We are spending 16 percent of our nation's income on health care expenses. How can we compete in the global economic market when our businesses are burdened by this increasing overhead cost?

Our health care system is not sustainable. Estimates are that Medicare will be bankrupt in the next 12 years. The insurance industry earns about 25 percent of every dollar spent on health care. The pharmaceutical industry is able to charge full fare for drugs for Medicare patients.

There are many Americans who would love to have health care and can't obtain it. There are many Americans who could have health care but choose not to obtain it.

I hear concern about American citizens being "required" to have health insurance; where is the concern about our current system which requires our health care providers to supply healthcare for all who present to our emergency rooms regardless of their ability to pay? These people are creating an enormous, invisible strain on our health care system.

Our current debate on health care is a debacle; we're seeing the worst side of our society as misinformation about proposed health care reform is getting more publicity than real information.

My view? Let's make some changes. Let's regulate the insurance industry. Let's allow Medicare to negotiate for drug benefits. Let's disconnect the relationship between work and health insurance by making it possible for individuals to purchase reasonable health insurance policies on their own.

Let's make health insurance portable (so you can take it with you when you move to a new job or state), gender equitable (so that childbearing women don't pay more than men) and blind to pre-existing conditions.

Let's give everyone an opportunity and a responsibility to carry health insurance so that hospitals are reimbursed for every patient that they care for. Let's get serious about patient safety by developing a no-fault insurance approach to medical malpractice; as long as we play the blame game we will never be able to fully realize our potential for error-free health care.

Let's have a public option limited to a small percentage of the population who have no other means for obtaining health insurance. But most of all, let's stop the spread of misinformation and all come to the table to fix a dysfunctional health care system and make health care a right and a responsibility for all citizens of the U.S.A.

• Dr. Sandra Koch practices obstetrics/-

gynecology in Carson City.

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