Health: 'Medicare for all'

By the Editorial Board
The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, April 25, 2013

If you think health care should be available to all Americans as a human right, you may be interested in a free public forum tonight at the University of Charleston.

Dr. Andrew Coates from upstate New York, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, is to share the podium with Perry Bryant of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. The session is at 7 p.m. in the Appalachian Room of the Geary Student Union.

Dr. Coates' nonprofit organization, which has 18,000 doctor members, wants America to create a Canada-style universal "single-payer" plan covering all U.S. families. It would aid 30,000 "working poor" American who still will lack protection against illness or injury, even after ObamaCare is fully implemented. And it would save billions of dollars by eliminating wasteful administrative costs of commercial insurers.

"Health care costs are continuing to rise," Dr. Coates says. "At the root of this problem is the private health industry -- the big private insurers, drug companies and hospital chains -- whose primary allegiance is to their shareholders and executives, not to patients. The insurers make profits by denying claims and raising premiums, co-pays and deductibles. They also drag down our health system with the costly paperwork and bureaucracy they inflict on doctors, hospitals and patients."

The reform leader adds: "By replacing the private insurers with a streamlined single-payer system, we can save over $400 billion squandered annually on wasteful paperwork. That's enough money to cover all of the uninsured and to eliminate all co-pays and deductibles."

We think his mission is exactly on-target. It's shameful that America is the only modern democracy without a national health system covering everyone. Insurance corporations and medical firms shouldn't get rich from sickness, with executives pocketing million-dollar salaries. U.S. employers shouldn't be forced to pay $7,000 per employee yearly for health coverage.

Almost 20 percent of America's gross domestic product is squandered on health care -- twice as much as in most developed countries. This year's total is expected to be $2.8 trillion. Yet health is no better in the United States than elsewhere.

Expanding Medicare to cover all citizens would be smart. Its bureaucracy is frugal, spending just $3.80 each to process more than 1 billion claims per year -- while Aetna insurance spends $30 to process each claim.

For more than a half-century, Democrats in Washington have sought to bring low-cost universal health care to America. President Obama's landmark 2010 reform was a major step. But more is needed.

Meanwhile, if Gov. Tomblin accepts a Medicaid expansion allowed by ObamaCare, 120,000 more West Virginians will gain coverage, almost entirely at federal expense.

As we said, medical care should be a human right for all.