News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Health-care choices at stake as government costs go up

While the possible privatization of Social Security is on the minds of many, more concern should be directed at America's burgeoning health-care system.

Across the years, hospitals, doctors and other health-care organizations have fought the nationalization of health care, but somewhere along the way, the system is allowing that to happen. Within the next decade, the federal government will be paying for more than half of this nation's medical expenses.

At that point, the government will be dictating who will treat what for whom and how the pay for these services will be handled.

England, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and a plethora of other nations have health care managed and paid for by the taxpayer, via the government. In these countries, people can look for some form of care from the cradle to the grave, which, of itself, isn't bad.

Those who have this type of national coverage complain that response is slow and indifferent, and at times, certain treatments are not available until they become life threatening.

Another downside is that the workers — those who pay taxes to support these services — usually pay more than 50 percent of their income to have these cradle to grave benefits that include health care.

That may be the progressive way of doing business there, but we Americans are spoiled. Generally, we can choose our own doctors, surgeons and hospitals. Most health care options are available to us without long waits or going through a bureaucracy to get approval.

One of the few things we can do as consumers to protect this freedom of choice is to be good stewards. Far too many people overuse health-care services, driving up the costs. The demand for the newest in technology and medications being touted on television also adds to the spiraling cost of health-care delivery.

Look for the government portion of health-care payments to continue to grow, especially with the start of the Medicare drug benefit in 2006. Will that be what we really want?

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