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Viewpoint: Health care rationing already exists

A number of recent Bulletin Viewpoints disparage health care reform and breezily dismiss the impact of current rationing based on ability to pay.

In fact, about forty-five percent of Americans went without needed care in 2007 because they couldn't afford it; more than half of all Americans cut back on care and/or stopped buying neededmedications because of costs; and, as many as 22,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance.

No matter how you look at it, that's rationing.

People who think they have excellent insurance often have not tried to use it; they could find out the hard way when their claims are denied, or when they are dropped from the insurance rolls altogether. According to HHS, insurance companies can, and do, revoke coverage retroactively if any condition was not disclosed when the policy was obtained, "even if the medical condition is unrelated, and even if the person was not aware of the condition at the time."

Tellingly, reform opponents cite dubious claims about Canada and Great Britain, neither of which is a model for current proposals. Sometimes, the claims get truly irrational. For example, Investor's Business Daily recently suggested that Stephen Hawking would have died because of health care rationing had he been British.

That would be Stephen Hawking, the British physicist, who was born in the UK, who rebutted that claim: "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," Hawking asserted.

So, if the proposals for health care reform do not involve nationalization modeled on Canadian and British systems, what do they involve? Quite simply, they make the current system work better by regulating insurers so they cannot exclude all but the healthiest Americans from coverage, and subsidizing those who cannot afford insurance without assistance.

That hardly amounts to the socialist, or fascist or communist (whichever happens to be the scary buzzword du jour) takeover of health care.

The rest of the proposal is all about making the core concepts work: individual mandates keep people from gaming the system by waiting until they are sick to sign up for insurance, and a public option creates effective competition and holds costs down.

In essence, the plan means that, if you already have insurance, your insurance company cannot refuse to cover your health care, and, if you cannot afford insurance, the government will help you.

Some on the right prefer to trust their health care decisions to insurance company bureaucrats, who keep their eyes on CEO and shareholder compensation and corporate profits. I respect their preferences; after all, apart from high quality, affordable medical care for seniors, members of the military, injured veterans, poor families, and low-income children, what has government-run health care ever done for us?

I am happy to remind those who prefer corporate bureaucrats making decisions about their coverage, that nowhere in the current proposals for health care reforms are there any plans to turn health care decision making over to government bureaucrats. Instead, the decision making will rest with the health care consumers themselves.

Now, of course some object to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, back to the rates that applied under Clinton, to pay for health care reform.

What I find hard to comprehend is how the party that claims to be the defender of morality considers taxes immoral, but allowing fellow Americans to live sicker and die younger for want of access to health care is considered a moral good.

Please, someone, explain that to me, because this Democrat sees morality in helping all Americans get health care.

Joyce Denn is a Woodbury resident.