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Health Care Reform and Cataclysm
The ongoing health care battle is a political and economic matter now. In terms of a cataclysmic event, a failure will mean one less safety net to buffer the fall for Americans after a major disaster and not just another Katrina.
We're talking about the coming La Palma Tsunami that is now a matter of when — not if — according to both scientists and Nostradamus alike.
When an eruption event causes the western flank of the younger volcano to collapse into the sea, it will generate a huge wave that will smash into the USA, from Maine to the Florida Keys. All along the way, there will not be just one Haiti or one Katrina. There will be a whole string of them running North and South all along the Eastern seaboard. Initially, there will be the emergency response and while the world will be sympathetic, we're basically on our own.
Given our present medical system (which is actually an oligopoly), what does this mean to us? Just like a Tsunami, the human suffering will come in waves, each one leaving successive damage to the next. The same will hold true here and here is an example of how it plays out.
Waves of Suffering
With the first wave, the initial death toll is horrific and medical and emergency services are soon stretched beyond their means. Above a basic level of care, anticipating massive losses from long term claims, health insurance companies quietly begin an intensive lobbying effort, to convince Congress to bail them out with a new trillion dollar TARP.
The second wave carries in a wide range of health concerns such as water borne diseases, influenza pandemics and so forth. Claims are pouring in, what remains of Wall Street is still under water and trading of their stocks has fallen on foreign exchanges. Face with uphill survival battle of their own, they hunker down for the fight. To survive no matter what.
The third wave comes with an exodus of survivors to border regions, as families from the affected crowd the waiting rooms in small community hospitals and clinics. The sounds of angry family members are often heard after learning their claim is "out of network" and that it is either denied or conditionally allowed with a brutally high deductible.
A debate over the "health care problem" beings to wind its way through an overtaxed Congress. Seen as a long term burden for those Americans not directly affected resistance, a massive bailout of the Insurance companies is broadly unpopular, especially as the dollar plummets against other currencies.
Worst yet, is China's strong hesitancy to purchase another trillion dollars worth of American bailout debt. Consequently, the natural tendency towards governance gridlock, a trait long nurtured by special interests, simply does what it does best. Nothing, and the trillion dollar medical TARP request is reduced to a face-saving token.
Pushing for more and playing against time, health insurance companies use the fine print in their policies to deny claims as never before. As survivors struggle to cope, insurance companies and their supporters in Congress, push harder for bailout legislation.
Eventually, a draconian resolution arrives, but only after countless preventable deaths. Like the housing crisis which triggered the Great Recession of 2008, the present medical system (which is actually an oligopoly) is a fair weather system by design. So what does a foul weather health system look like?
A Foul Weather Health System
A health care bill with a strong public option would be a foul weather health system (not that it would be pretty.) One that could help mitigate the crisis, as opposed to aggravating it. As the insurer, the Federal government would already have a legislative mechanism in place. Therefore, the only argument would be over which provisions to accelerate, and that would likely be a short lived debate.
As we watch this health care saga unfold, the only question I have as a catastrophism researcher is this. When East Coast survivors are fleeing devastated towns and cities to neighboring regions, will they show up at a local hospital with a Federal insurance card, knowing that everywhere in America is "in network" and that they will receive care.
Alternatively, our present fair weather health care system will force Americans survivors to face brutal "out of network" deductibles, and hosptials will demand payment in advance with money they likely do not have?
Or worse yet, after spending hours in voice mail mazes and waiting on hold, they finally speak with a claims representative who tells them their policy has been canceled. Either because the companies they used to work for no longer exist, or that they forgot to a mention a prescription for a simple yeast infection on their application.
For me, the crux of this health care opera is not the present. Rather, do we keep a fair weather health system, or do we replace it with a foul weather system that will save move lives? This future scenario is being decided today now. Just remember that.