Out-of-pocket costs put care out of reach

By Anne Scheetz, M.D.
Chicago Tribune, Letters, Dec. 6, 2014

Some of the newly insured have joined the ranks of those who can't afford to use their health coverage because their out-of-pocket costs are so high. This is an inevitable problem in a system in which people's total costs -- premiums plus deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and non-covered expenses -- are related poorly if at all to what they have left after paying for food, housing, utilities, transportation and other necessities. It is an inevitable problem in a system in which those who have the greatest health care needs -- because they are women, or sick, or have disabilities -- have the highest health care costs.

Yet there is a simple solution that would save money for almost everyone -- for the country as a whole, for governments at all levels and for 95 percent of U.S. households. If we get rid of the enormous administrative waste created by our complex system of financing and implement instead single-payer Medicare for all, we can provide high-quality health care for everyone with no financial barriers or burdens. It's the common-sense solution, and it's the solution that would show us to be truly a nation united.

Dr. Anne Scheetz resides in Chicago. This letter was originally titled "Insurance costs."