BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS
Post-Tribune (Merrillville, Ind.), April 2, 2010
GARY — The health care reform bill was adopted last week with great fanfare, but some critics believe the legislation didn’t go far enough.
Indiana University Northwest hosted a lecture and discussion Thursday on why a single-payer system wasn’t seriously considered in the health care debate.
Minority Studies chairman Raoul Contreras said the health care debate illustrated the frustration that ordinary Americans have with government.
“You think you’re involved, but you’re not,” Contreras said. “The only thing that was considered was how do we reform the profit-driven insurance company system. The question I think we should be asking is, do we need these insurance companies?”
Dr. Erlo Roth, a pathologist in Hinsdale, Ill., spoke about what universal health care system would work best in the United States.
Roth became involved with Physicians for a National Health Program about a year ago.
“I’m worried about the way that the health care system has moved in the past 20 or 30 years, not in terms of quality but in the way it’s financed,” Roth said.
Roth said the United States spends about 17 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health care compared to 8 percent in other developed nations. He said more spending doesn’t yield better health outcomes — the infant and maternal mortality rates in the U.S. lag behind other countries and many uninsured Americans have chronic medical conditions that go untreated.
Roth outlined some of the differences between universal health care systems in Germany, England and Canada.
In Germany, in-surers are private and nonprofit, and are mandated to offer a level of benefits. In England, hospitals are owned by the government and staff are employed by the National Health Service.
Canada’s National Insurance Model works similar to Medicare, with doctors and hospitals staying private.
All of these universal programs are paid for by progressive taxes.
Roth believes the best solution for American health care would be to offer a Medicare-for-all system.
“Doctors and hospitals would remain independent, and drug companies would have to negotiated fees with the government, like the Veterans Administration does,” Roth said.
He said the health care measure signed into law is an important first step toward expanding coverage, but it doesn’t control costs and still leaves about 23 million people without insurance.
Activist Nick Egnatz wondered why a single-payer health care system was never seriously considered by politicians in Washington, D.C. He attributed part of the reason to lobbyists.
“We need representatives that represent us,” he said. “Both political parties are supported by corporate interests.
“There’s something wrong with a system that doesn’t take care of everyone.”