Making the case for efficient health care

By Robert S. Levine, M.D.
The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, Letters, Dec. 5, 2012

Matt Miller's column "The Business Man - Obama should use Romney to make health care more efficient" was right on target (The Press, Dec. 2). His suggestion that we "identify the major lessons and best practices" of other nations was totally ignored by Congress during the debate on the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

One feature of the health care systems in ALL other industrialized democracies is the non-profit status of the basic benefit package sold by insurers. This doesn't mean that the government expropriates these companies, but it does define how the insurance industry must sell health care coverage products. T.R. Reid has clearly covered how this is done worldwide in his book "The Healing Of America" wherein he showed that it's not all socialized medicine out there.

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-founder and board member of Physicians for a National Health Program, has identified six important principles for health care delivery system reform:

• Nonprofit.
• All capitation payments must be used for patient care. Surpluses are not
• Separate capital funding is based on regional planning. (eg., was a heart transplant program essential in Grand Rapids or simply approved to satisfy the growth agenda of one institution?)
• Eliminate insurance middlemen.
• Rich and poor in the same plan.
• Quality data used for improvement not financial reward.

Now we're talking real efficiency and truly affordable universal care.

Robert S. Levine, M.D., retired, lives in Grand Rapids.