Straight talk about health care reform

By Ewell G. Scott, M.D.
The Morehead (Ky.) News, Dec. 31, 2013

Let’s do some straight talking about the current situation in health care reform and cut through the misleading rhetoric on all sides. 

Two elementary problems exist. The first difficulty is that a sizable portion of us have no health insurance. Most estimates of that number are in the range of 50 million. 

The number two problem is the overall cost of health care itself. America spends nearly 18 percent of its GDP on health care, twice as much as other civilized countries. 

Why should that be? Everything else is more expensive in those other countries, except their Universal Health Care. How come? The answer is simple, straight forward and easy to understand. The phenomenon is call OVERHEAD. 

Every business man understands the cost of doing business. Humana, Aetna, Anthem and you name them, use up 20-30 percent of the premium dollar in administrative cost. Other countries similar overhead is in the range of 3 percent, similar to our Medicare’s cost.

Since we spend close to $2 trillion each year on health care, simple fifth-grade math give us a savings of $400 billion each year. Kentucky’s share of that savings would be $8 billion. That is a huge figure, when you know that our entire state budget is $9 billion. 

So what? Well, it means we do not have those funds for education, national security, roads or other job growing investments. In the very recent past Congress passed a budget resulting in a savings of $23 billion for the next year. 

That figure pales in comparison to the savings which could occur under a single-payer plan, such as an improved and expanded Medicare.

The Affordable Care Act is attempting to correct the first problem but because it is so complicated it has failed miserably. To date total enrollment of the previously uninsured is at about one million folks, but there are 50 million Americans uninsured. 

Gov. Steve Beshear certainly did the right thing by embracing the Medicaid expansion portion of the law so the folks making less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will qualify for that program. But alas the purchase of private health insurance has lagged way short of goals.

Medicare for All would solve both problems: Cost and access. It would be automatic, get it a birth and lose it at death. No web pages to negotiate, no phone calls to try, no “navigators” to help find the “right plan for you.” We would all have the best. 

Dr. Ewell G. Scott resides in Morehead.