About 20 years ago, the health care industry underwent a major financial shift in how patient services were billed.
This shift was based on a federal reimbursement structure called diagnostic related groups. When this happened, physician-directed services were taken off the front burner, and insurance companies gained control of pricing and authorizing health care services.
In response to the snowballing crisis that ensued, President Bill Clinton appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to develop a plan that would close the loopholes and eliminate disparities. She put together an eager group, but nothing was accomplished.
Eight years passed. Rather than building on solid programs like Medicare and Medicaid, some politicians proposed Medicaid cuts and the deregulation of Medicare. Fortunately, those didn't happen.
Tuesday night, the second presidential debate between Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama, left some of us still pondering their health care solutions.
What kind of health care coverage do we have to look forward to during the next four years? I would hope both candidates would consider the fact that our country has two successfully regulated systems already in place. These are called Medicare and Medicaid.
If we're going to invest tax dollars, why not expand these programs to close the loopholes and tackle disparities? Deregulating, or privatizing, Medicare and Medicaid is not the solution.
American workers shouldn't be penalized either. If an employee is satisfied with the health care coverage he receives through his employer, no politician should want to tax these benefits.
I'm still not convinced that every American would "savor" the opportunity of "shopping" for a competitive health care plan with a $5,000 tax rebate, which probably would be eaten up in deductibles anyway. It would be like shopping for the best-priced gasoline - a few cents difference, here and there, but nothing's truly gained.
The bottom line here is that these are tough times in the health care industry.
Our country already has made the correct and moral decision to provide health care to those most needy - the indigent, elderly, veterans and those who have lost jobs or are in between jobs.
Let's hope our next president does the right thing by expanding on these good programs already in place and not walk the path of socialized medicine.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by Mount Nittany Medical Center and West Virginia University Medical Center.