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Considering the health care issue


A story from The New York Times` Aug. 30 edition reports that despite a strong economy and rising prosperity, a million more Americans a year are losing health care protection.

From 1987 to 1996, the number of Americans without health insurance rose from about 31 million to just over 41 million, according to data compiled by the Employee Benefits Research Institute and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The uninsured lack health care coverage because they can`t get it at work or can`t afford it. In the past, these folks turned to charity care. However, this last resort “is being threatened by the rapid expansion of managed care, which is putting tremendous financial pressure on doctors and hospitals to focus their resources on insured patients.”

Once again, managed care comes under fire. Criticism of managed care has become a new American tradition as the country addresses the increasingly complex and costly health care delivery system. While managed care is not perfect – but what system would be? – it is here to stay. In learning to live with managed care, Americans will have to change their expectations and health habits.

Dr. Joan Exline, assistant professor for health policy and administration at the University of Southern Mississippi, said that managed care won`t work if there are attempts to force traditional health care delivery into the managed care system.

“We really have to revamp how we do things,” she said. “I think it is this cycle of revamping that has caused some of the (HMOs) to go out of business. Being able to go to any doctor, take any test, and not having to wait, those things may have to change a little. We have to focus on preventative care.”

The issues involved in providing Americans with adequate health care will not be resolved quickly or painlessly. However, one factor is critical: Every American must take responsibility for living a healthy life. Obviously, every health problem is not the result of one`s lifestyle and managed care will not satisfy every patient every time. There are no absolutes when it comes to the human body. However, it is imperative to consider our personal responsibility as we continue to discuss the state of American health care and attempt to build a better system.

None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines.

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