What options are there for those who are uninsured, short of paying out-of-pocket or trying to use the emergency room for routine care? Part of the difficulty in sorting out the health care dilemma is that there are so many groups with agendas that may not necessarily converge. On the surface, everyone wants the same thing: top-quality health care at the most reasonable cost possible. How to get to that point is what keeps the different sides so far apart. The attempts by the Clinton Administration to create a more comprehensive health care system in the early 1990s showed just how firmly entrenched different groups are in their own beliefs and opinions on the subject.
Physicians want to have more freedom to make choices without being beholden to insurance companies that are forever trying to place cost containment over patient well-being. Insurance companies want to find ways to cut the cost of medical care instead of letting physicians take control of the industry and price the insurers out of business.
Health advocacy groups have suggested a number of options:
- Tax credits for the poor to help them pay for their health insurance
- Greater access to “medical savings accounts” (MSAs). These accounts allow people to set aside money for medical costs. Typically, a person with a high deductible insurance policy will use an MSA to cover the cost of that deductible
- Overhauling the entire health care system to eliminate waste and inefficiency
- Encouraging all Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles, thus making the public healthier in general and reducing the overall need for complicated medical care
To be sure, each of these ideas may have some merit. From the standpoint of the would-be patient who has no insurance and who cannot afford a trip to the doctor, however, the issue is more immediate: how to get decent medical care now.