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Here's the needed reform you won't find in the House bill

By Louis Schlickman
Idaho Statesman, Reader's View
Dec 31, 2009

From Rep. Walt Minnick's Web site: "... I believe that health care reform must reduce costs, rely on the private sector, prevent restrictions based on age or employment status or preconditions, and must ensure coverage for all Americans."

I agree. The combined House bill will not achieve those stated goals. However, I would like to explain why I think we can get you to the forest through the trees.

1. Reform must reduce the ridiculous $2.5 trillion health care spending bill we have in the United States. We could save up to $400 billion by getting rid of private health insurance companies and their wasteful marketing, underwriting, claim denials, and exorbitant CEO payments. They provide no health care benefit whatsoever.

Another $700 billion could be saved by modeling our system after clinically integrated health systems like the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. They offer credible cost savings and improved patient outcomes.

2. The segments of the private sector we should rely on are businesses and individuals that provide actual patient-related care. Our doctors, clinics, hospitals, etc., are the core private sector to save.

3. We must abolish restrictions on age, employment and pre-existing conditions. Private insurers, however, will just pass on the increased costs to the public purchasing their insufficient products. An improved Medicare for everyone would have enrollment at birth and disenrollment at death - very simple. No increased cost to cover marketing, underwriting or profit and CEO waste.

4. Rep. Minnick wants to ensure coverage for all Americans. However, he doesn't want a one-size-fits-all plan with comprehensive benefits for every citizen at birth up until death. He prefers we choose from among a multitude of private plans that offer us underinsurance products that leave most of us just one severe illness or injury away from bankruptcy. A single-payer-financed system doesn't have those fake choices. You would have the real choice of any doctor or hospital for your care.

He can see the trees but can't seem to find the forest. The real solution is the U.S. National Health Care Act, HR 676 (the House bill). You enroll at birth and have comprehensive benefits for all medically necessary care. No tricky claims departments or waste on advertising and underwriting. Our health care dollars would go to actual health care, not investors and CEOs. The private-sector competition to provide quality care and achieve growth would occur where it should - in the small-business physician's office, clinic, lab or hospital culture. We are not a commodity; we are a necessary social infrastructure benefit keeping our communities and our nation healthy and strong. This is arguably more important than our police, fire and military protection.

A publicly financed health care system with predominantly privately delivered health care in our excellent U.S. facilities is easily achievable, would be highly ethical, and would provide profound economic benefits to our local and national businesses in competing with other companies that previously did not provide health care benefits because of costs.

Briefly: An improved Medicare For All is the most fiscally conservative and socially responsible reform option. It would reduce costs; rely predominantly on the private health care delivery system; categorically eliminate restrictions based on age, employment or pre-existing conditions; and would include all Americans at birth until death. It could save upwards of $1 trillion in the first year or two. That's a pretty sweet one-size-fits-all program. And no deficit increase for our fiscal conservative hawk, Walt Minnick.

Visit www.idahohealthcareforall.org/ or www.pnhp.org for more information.

Dr. Louis Schlickman is a practicing internal medicine physician in Meridian and a member of Idaho Health Care For All, the state chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.