Isn’t it time for the naysayers on health care reform to face the reality of what is going on? For too long we have buried our collective heads in the sand and refused to look reality in the eye.

What we mean is that the health care system in the United States in going to hell in a hurry and very few seem to want to do anything about it. This seems most true for older people who will be the hardest hit victims of the coming health system train wreck. (Most people don’t recall that when Social Security was passed in the 1930s, life expectancy for men was about 65, the age of retirement. Today the life expectancy for men is about 78, a gain of 13 years).

The health care system is more than the convenience of your next visit to the doctor. We all want to get right in to see the doctor, get the best medical advice and treatment and not pay for it. GREAT! However…

• Medical science is making more and more breakthroughs, prolonging life, which means more costly doctor and hospital visits for more and more people.
• Medicare premiums are not nearly enough to sustain the system for its
ever-expanding population. (Remember the baby boomers).
• Health insurers continually raise premiums to provide more and more profits for their shareholders (and larger and larger bonuses for their execs).
• A “free enterprise” system in which there is no free enterprise. U.S. law prevents Medicare from exercising its vast buying power to lower drug prices in the U.S. Is this free enterprise? U.S. law prohibits Americans from freely buying medications overseas where prices are substantially lower. Is this free enterprise? Exorbitant drug prices eat up health dollars at an alarming rate and deplete the ability of the health system to take care of all of us at less cost.

We could go on and on about the cost of “defensive medicine”, doctors owning an interest in testing and service providers thereby having a great incentive to order unnecessary tests and services which provide them profits, wasteful and harmful recordkeeping, and, worst of all, 45 to 50 million Americans without health insurance, leaving them to fend for themselves by going to hospital emergency rooms or not going to the doctor at all.

We all know the old saw – “You get what you pay for”. If you can’t pay, you don’t get. With fewer people paying into Social Security will there be any security, social or otherwise in our near future or will the system as we now fund it have to change? With Medicare expenses skyrocketing because more and more people are living longer and requiring more and more medical and hospital care and with new and expensive treatments being discovered every year, how can we pay for it with the old Medicare and the “profits at all costs” private insurance system?

There is momentum for change now. It took almost 20 years from the Harry and Louise Days for the country to get up the nerve to face the issue again. We can’t afford to just make cosmetic changes which don’t get to the basic needs of health care in this country. There aren’t another 20 years left to get it right for all of us.