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The answer is improved Medicare for all

By Judy Dasovich, M.D.
Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, May 22, 2014

At the News-Leader’s recent economic forum, community members expressed concern about health costs.

Former Mercy President Robert Steele worried that “we’re spending money on health care that does not substantially increase the health of those we’re serving.” Employers tell him that it’s “breaking our bank.” Cox CEO Steve Edwards warns that Missouri hospitals are disadvantaged due to lack of Medicaid expansion.

Architect John Oke-Thomas said his company has been forced to bounce between Cox and Mercy plans in “order to survive.” John Kabell of Teamsters Local 245 says health care is “the biggest issue at the table with every set of negotiations we have.” Brad Thomas of Silver Dollar City says that navigating insurance requirements is a challenge.

I have good news for all these concerned citizens. There is a solution that provides economy, simplicity and security. U.S. House of Representatives Bill 676 and Senate Bill 1782 support a single-payer system of national health insurance, or improved Medicare for all. Traditional Medicare has overhead of less than 3 percent compared to an average of 14 percent for all private insurance companies, some as high as 20-25 percent.

Doctors and hospitals would not be owned by the government.

General tax revenues would pay for the continued private delivery of an essential service.

Americans would be free to choose and stay with any doctor or hospital, avoiding the danger and expense of bouncing between health systems. They would not lose their insurance if they became sick or lost their job. Employers could tend to their businesses instead of health care expenses and administration.

As taxpayers, we would support a system that uses the money paid in for patient care, not administrative waste and profiteering.

An analysis based on HR 676 by Dr. Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, shows that a nonprofit single-payer system would save an estimated $592 billion in its first year of implementation. 95 percent of people would pay less for health care than they do now, as would most businesses.

Americans pay more out of pocket than citizens of other countries with universal financing. We spend more per patient than those other countries but our outcomes are worse. We have higher infant and maternal mortality and overall mortality, and fewer years lived in a healthy state. It’s a myth that higher out-of-pocket costs control health care costs, so called “skin in the game.” If it did, Americans would have the cheapest health care in the world.

Despite the Affordable Care Act reforms, many people will remain without health insurance.

Device makers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies are making huge profits while Americans are burdened with high premiums, deductibles, co-pays and drug costs. The CEO of my insurance company, Coventry, makes $13 million per year, or $50,000 per day.

Meanwhile, Americans die because we ration health care by ability to pay, not need. We can change this by working to make improved Medicare for all the law of the land.

Judy Dasovich, M.D., lives in Springfield.

http://www.news-leader.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/05/22/answer-...