In these days of high unemployment more and more people are going without medical care. President Obama has taken this opportunity to push his socialized medicine agenda. He is right that costs have to be contained. I am not sure how right he is in exactly how he intends to go about it. Meanwhile the bills he proposes wallow in Congressional debates ad nauseum. They may never emerge. Alternatively they may emerge as an even more costly health care system that stifles American businesses and individuals with another huge tax burden. The taxpayers cannot afford this burden.
In this time of hardship there is action that can be taken immediately. The Congress could enact a big jump in funding for free clinics for the next 3 years or more. Most of these clinics survive largely on charitable donations. Plus they get help from the federal, state, county, and sometimes city governments. Virtually all of the labor is free. They spend their money on medicine and clinic supplies. Often their facilities are donated by churches, etc. They help millions nationwide. They are as strapped for cash now as everyone else. Their county and state governments cannot afford to give them money (or as much). Instead of serving more people as they should be during these times of strife, they are forced to serve fewer. Failing to allocate money for these terrifically efficient and “cheap” medical providers is a perfect case of being penny wise and pound foolish!
We do not know if Obama’s socialized medicine plan will succeed. We do not know when or if it will be enacted. We do know a lot of people need medical care. Most free clinics actually provide good quality medical care. They make up for any lack of knowledge by their thoroughness. Volunteers really care about the people they are serving. They donate their time. The free clinics don’t have to pay for complex medical billing. They don’t bill. This is another cost saved. Congress should acknowledge their benefit in these times of strife by providing for them. They should not be shrinking in these hard times. They should be expanding their services. They need money to do this.
Funding free clinics more would likely cut down on state and federally supplied medical care costs. Many people would prefer not to have to fill out all of the forms. Administrative costs for screening many questionably qualified individuals would go down. Many individuals would go to more advertised and more well supplied, much cheaper for the government, free clinics. Tremendous amounts could be saved in visits and clerical costs alone. It often costs more money in clerical costs for state programs to reject someone's request for aid than it costs for a free clinic to provide the treatment the person needs. Many more who do not feel qualified for state programs would seek the medical assistance they need. This might save yet larger costs for the governments down the line, as those people would be prevented from becoming more seriously ill through non-treatment.
Why is this not being done? If it is, I certainly haven’t heard about it. I think a lot of free clinics haven’t either. My thought is that this type of thing would be viewed as a temporary and perhaps minimal fix. It would likely help. However, the backers of the socialized medicine initiative don’t want it because it would lessen the need for the change they are proposing. Plus it would use up some of their political capital to get this sort of bill passed. The more capitalistic (republican) Congress persons don’t want it, because they are opposed to any type of socialism. The average Joe or Jane suffers! The taxpayer suffers!
The lack of a major initiative by the Obama administration to increase the funding to free clinics substantially during these hard times is hypocritical. Obama has to pay attention to politics if he is going to get anything done. However, he should be paying attention to the needs of his country at the same time. If he can spend billions to bailout the automakers or AIG to benefit Americans, he can spend say $10B to provide stop gap medical care for many needy Americans. He doesn’t need to start new free clinics, although that could happen. He simply needs to give the existing ones a chance to provide good care to the many needy. If a free clinic spent say 80% of the monies on supplying medical services to the community, it should qualify. Even free clinics need a few salaried people to order the supplies and organize the show, etc. My own belief is that any money spend on these free clinics would be more than made up for by the consequent decrease in use of more expensive “main stream” county, state, and federal medical care programs. Certainly many more people in desperate need of medical care could get it more easily.
Will Obama step up on this issue? Or has he become what he claims he detests -- a typical Washington Pol? Changing the banking system in one fell swoop would likely be disastrous. Many realize this. Changing the medical system in one fell swoop would likely be just as disastrous. These things both need to be well thought out. They both need to be phased in. A free clinic initiative might give many people help while Congress makes up its mind how to change the current medical system. I would agree with Obama that it does need to be changed. It’s expenses are simply growing too quickly. However, that is not excuse for ignoring the present.
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