What Americans want for health care

What do Americans want for their health care?

Shortly after Barack Obama won the presidential election, he and his transition team put together a Web site to open the dialogue with the American public. They asked the question: What worries you most about the health care system in our country?

And Americans responded. By the time the online forum closed, 3,701 comments had been logged.

What’s clear is that people are deeply frustrated and often angry. One woman wrote:

I had to choose healthcare over housing! Even with the best, I have (to) wait 4-5 months to get my yearly physical at my OB-GYN and just as long to get a dental exam and just as long to get my son into see his specialist.

The escalating cost of health insurance and of health care itself has left Americans feeling profoundly insecure. Wrote one person:

 …If you get sick enough so that you can not return to work, you eventually lose your insurance, right when it is most important.

From an ex-RN:

Simply put, what worries me most is the sudden onset of a catastrophic illness or serious accident. Even with some insurance, the financial burden imposed could easily take all my assets and any money and leave me virtually homeless.

From "Jeff" come these observations on a primary care system that is straining at the seams:

There are not enough primary care physicians to cover these people already insured. If you add another 46 million to the roles, we will have a tremendous shortage and wait times will be measured in months and not days. We need to reduce the amount of paperwork the primary care physicians must complete and pay them competitively if we are going to fix this problem.

And what of mental health care? Don’t overlook this important part of the health care picture, urged one commenter, describing mental health as "the distant relative not invited to eat at the health care table and is the first to be blamed if a patient is not getting well."

What’s the answer? If the 3,701 comments are any indication, there appears to be an increasing groundswell of support for some kind of single-payer system. One person wrote:

What is needed is government-run, single-payer, universal healthcare NOW. Anything different than that will perpetuate the health for profit, pro-private insurance, and pro-big pharma exploitation inherent in American government and laws.

What comes next? And what more can individual Americans do? Obama and the vice president-elect, Joe Biden, have laid out the outline of their plan. They and their transition team also are calling on the public to continue the dialogue by hosting a community health care discussion some time between now and Dec. 31.

The informal discussions can be held anywhere – in people’s homes, at a community center or favorite coffee place. Those who sign up online can receive a moderator’s guide, plus a list of frequently asked questions.

Ideas, suggestions and recommendations will be forwarded to the Obama-Biden health care policy team.