Elections 2012: Missing From The Debate – The Indian Health System

Mark Trahant | Indian Country | October 2, 2012

There is one public health “system” in the United States. Its cost per patient is lower than the rest of the country. Some of the clinics and hospitals are models of what health care could be … and at the same time some of the clinics are substandard and represent the worst of what we think of as government-run health care. That system is, of course, the Indian Health Service.

On Wednesday night during the presidential someone ought to ask this: How would you grade existing government-run health care? Then, a follow up, how would that change by your administration over the next four years?

The context for these questions is that the government already has lots of experience running complicated health care insurance programs. The big ones are Medicare (most seniors love it); Medicaid, a state-federal partnership that does two things, provide basic insurance to 50 million low income people and pay for long term care for elders who cannot afford nursing homes; Tricare for active-duty military, their families and retirees; and the Veterans Administration. Each of these systems has its pluses and minuses. There is no perfect health care system. Anywhere...