Wake-up call for reform

By Arthur J. Sutherland III, M.D.
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.), Letters, May 31, 2014

Your May 18 article “City health plan: Changes could cost retirees, employees” shows just how broken our health care delivery system has become. Employer-based commercial health insurance is not working. This way of financing access to health care has persisted in spite of the evidence that the U.S. has the most complex, chaotic and costly health care system in the developed world. We do not cover everyone in America and most people with insurance are underinsured. Your article gave dramatic examples of gaps in coverage for both active city employees and retirees.

The sad part of this story is that America spends twice as much per capita on health care as other countries, but gets inadequate results. We are the only developed country in the world not to provide universal coverage, and the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th in overall health status compared to other nations.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was just “health insurance reform.” We are already seeing that this law will not cover everyone in America or control long-term costs. In essence, it is not sustainable because it added more cost and complexity, plus reduced the patients’ choice of providers and hospitals to narrow networks controlled by the insurance industry.

What we need is a public single-payer national health insurance system — a “Medicare for all” model. We were never able to get this debate on the table during the health care reform debate because of the excessive corporate influence that rendered our government incapable of making policy on the basis of evidence and the public good.

Your story should be our early warning, and a wake-up call to restructure our health care payment and delivery system.

Dr. Arthur J. Sutherland III resides in Memphis.