Our View: Health care is broken

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The American health care system is a joke.

It is an expansive, expensive, bureaucratic and ineffective mongrel that tramples, or avoids, as many people as it helps.

It boasts of cutting edge technology, the finest doctors anywhere and world-class hospitals.

And yet it fails to serve all those who need treatment.

It confuses, refuses, and, at times, arbitrarily chooses, if and how someone in dire need will receive the help required to either sustain life, or improve the quality of it.

This is the opinion of the editorial board, and it is mild compared to the stinging criticisms heard across the country every day from an increasing number of people dissatisfied with the big business of health care.

There is good news and bad news regarding the health care situation.

First, the bad.

As Susan Birch, executive director of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said in Friday's Daily Press, the solution to the living nightmare that is the health care system is neither easy nor quick. It's going to take thorough discussion and debate; it's going to take the commitment of lawmakers and the allocation of resources.

Mainly, it's going to take a lot of time and effort.

The good news, at least in Colorado, is our state government seems to understand the severity of the system failures - having about 800,000 uninsured state residents chief among them - and has implemented steps to begin plugging the gaping health care holes.

As a side note, the Colorado Bureau of Labor reports that 24.5 percent of Moffat County residents are uninsured. That figure includes an estimated 1,600 undocumented workers.

The state Legislature created the Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform to study and diagnose the ills of the state's health care system. To do so, the commission has hosted meetings around the state to solicit the opinions of local residents.

Several commission members will be in Craig today, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, for a public meeting.

Commissioners are asking for public feedback about the health care system and how it can be improved. The feedback, commission members say, is critical in crafting recommendations the commission will make to the Legislature next year.

Those recommendations could lead to wide-scale reform.

The editorial board encourages as many people in the community as possible attend this meeting. Go, the board says, and express your thoughts, frustrations and, most importantly, your opinion on how things can be changed for the better.

The board believes that public debate is good and fair criticisms can lead to change. The board also believes that health care critics, of which there are many, cannot live in a vacuum.

That is, they have an obligation to be part of the solution when such an opportunity presents itself.

It's like jury duty, folks.

You can't complain about unjust verdicts while simultaneously trying to avoid your civic responsibility. The same line of thinking applies to today's meeting: you have the right to gripe; you also have an obligation to gripe to the people who can make a difference.

Please do not confuse the editorial board's overall opinion on health care.

Our complaints are not against the fine doctors, nurses, hospitals and health care professionals in our country, county and city.

We support these people and trust their intentions are to help.

No, we believe the failure to be systematic.

Like school teachers, health professionals are trapped in a failing system that severely handicaps their ability to stay true to those good intentions.

Only when a health care system is implemented in our state and country that works to complement these professionals rather than hinder them, will health care become more than the punch-line it is today.

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