Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Eagle Butte
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Free health care for all- is it really free?


Floyd Braun

Greetings everyone and again thanks for following my op-ed column. It is you the readers that make this possible.

I am in no way an expert on health care, however, I would like to share my ten cents worth based on my own life experiences and thoughts of what the true cost of a national health care plan is for the good and the bad. I am not trying to sway you one way or another, but would like to add some thoughts for you to consider. Based on facts from plans and actions seen first-hand.

I have compiled some information from plans in Canada and the U.K., as well as my own experience while living in Mexico for a summer.

I would like to start with my own experience in Mexico in 1991. I was there working on a tomato plantation as an irrigation specialist and one day an older coworker had a heart attack. We took him to the local hospital in Camalou and when we got there, I was met by a doctor who took my coworker to a room for treatment. The doctor listened to his heart, gave him an aspirin and asked if he had a passport. If he had one, he would be flown to the United States, or he would be kept there at the hospital and they would do what they could.

My coworker died about two hours later.

Upon departing the hospital, we reached a checkpoint. At this checkpoint we were asked by two nuns and a priest to donate $20.00 as the services provided were free, but due to a low-tax base, this checkpoint was set up to help raise funds for the hospital.

While conducting research on the Canadian universal health system, I found that health care is not free in Canada- it is publicly-funded which paid through taxes. And the health care coverage varies in each province or territory. In order to receive universal health care, you must first apply, and it may take up to three months before you get health insurance.

According to the Government of Canada website, under the government health care plan, you can receive access to basic medical services; however, you may need to buy private insurance plans to cover costs for prescription medications, dental care, prescription eyeglasses, and durable medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, insulin pumps, oxygen tanks, etc).

Additionally, wait times for outpatient services range from 5 weeks to 90 days.

According to The King’s Fund website, the health care system in the United Kingdom, called the National Health Service, is tax-funded and provides most health care services free of charge, as long as there is funding available. 88% of prescriptions are covered, but prescription plans and durable medical supply plans can be purchased for non-covered drugs or home medical supplies. If no generic drugs are available, you must pay a copay on your prescription plan. The national plan is based on taxes received from employee and employee tax, but unfortunately the percent of working age people is shrinking and the system is stressed to provide funds.

After examining these “free” health care systems, I’ve compiled some things to consider about having a national health care system in the United States:

Pros:

If you do not have major health issues, it works very well.

For those under 50 years of age, your out-of-pocket costs are minimal.

If you live by what the government calls a healthy lifestyle, your costs are low. If not, you pay more.

Cons:

You lose your right to choice on if you want universal health care, and what it will cost you.

The Emergency Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) gives individuals the right to emergency care, regardless of their ability to pay.

Congress may steal from national health care funding, just as they have decimated Social Security.

What government gives can also be taken away.

As the population gets older, there are fewer working age people so a smaller tax base and care will be based on likely survival such as age. For example, an 80-year old man could be denied a heart bypass because his chances of recovery are less due to age.

Federal withholding from your paycheck may go up to at least 30%.

Under the plan by Senator Bernie Sanders, we would see the following increases:

4% employee paid payroll tax

7% employer payroll tax (this could reduce future wage increases)

Here is a question to think about: if you have a hard time making ends meet now, how will you do if you are paying an extra 15% per month in taxes? And these are taxes that you will not be refunded in April on your tax filing.

Here are some options to consider if you can’t afford health care today:

•Sliding-fee care from Horizon Health Clinic located on Hwy. 212 in Eagle Butte.

•Set up payment plans for up to 5 years with IHS If you are not a member of a federally-recognized Native American Tribe or a descendent for care received in the emergency room.

•Charity care at private hospitals based on your income and other factors.

•Contact the manufacturer of your prescription medicines because they can have reduced cost or free medicine programs you can sign up for.

There are options available to us, and they may not all be easy options, but they exist. Also keep in mind, prior to the Affordable Care Act, you could buy a major medical insurance plan if you were healthy, but in case of a major illness, you were covered for about $45.00 a month. The insurance plans no longer exist, so your options are fewer and when you don’t have choices, you do not have freedom of choice.

I am not against a national healthcare plan but I think we must research what it will cost us.