Make patients the priority, not profits

By Scott Goldberg
Chicago Tribune, May 27, 2014

As a medical student, I appreciated Tribune reporter Peter Frost's story, "Lawsuit accuses Blue Cross and Blue Shield parent of funneling profit to execs" (May 22).

Nominally nonprofit health insurers are reaping huge financial gains by employing the same practices as for-profit insurers (claim denials, restrictive networks) and paying for as little actual health care as possible. They then use these gains to pay multimillion-dollar executive salaries and bonuses and to construct lavish buildings like the BCBS Illinois Tower along East Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. Frost’s article demonstrates that the problem with our healthcare system is not whether insurers are for-profit or nonprofit, but that they exist at all.

That is why myself and 80 other medical students from across the country demonstrated outside that tower on May 12 to denounce our healthcare system for putting the interests of private insurance companies over patient needs. We were there as part of a national movement of medical students, physicians, nurses and other health professionals calling for a single-payer national health program. The idea is straightforward — eliminate private insurers and have the government pay all medical claims directly, much like Medicare works for seniors today.

Every other industrialized country has a similar mechanism for providing universal, affordable and high-quality healthcare. The problem with the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is that it entrenches insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield and even mandates that taxpayers purchase their broken product.

Single-payer health care is not “socialized medicine.” It is simply the best way to reform our deeply flawed healthcare system.

Scott Goldberg is a medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.