By Dr. John Cavacece
Grand Rapids Press, Jan. 3, 2011
With the elections and the old year in the rearview mirror, debate will rage about whether to repeal the health care reform law. Some of the many opposed to the law will use the same misinformed scare tactics that got them elected, saying that we can’t afford it, that it puts too much control in the hands of the government, and that medical progress, like open heart surgery in every hospital in Grand Rapids, will be hindered.
All of these assertions will distract people from fixing the real tragedy of our health care system: 50 million people without access to health care, a health care industry that continues to make obscene profits at the expense of the health of all of us, and a misleading and false claim that we have the best quality health care in the world. The truth is we are last of 19 industrialized nations in quality measures such as preventable death at age 75 and infant mortality. This lack of quality exists despite the fact that we spend almost twice as much per capita as the next highest spending nation.
The new health care law is not perfect. It does offer coverage to previously uncovered young adults through their parents’ policies. It will force insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions. It does expand Medicaid to cover those with very low incomes.
On the flip side, the law fails to go far enough. The mandate will give the insurance companies millions of new customers, but the insurers, having sold what amounts to a defective product to those customers, will be able to continue to increase their co-pays and deductibles, insuring that the insurers maintain their profit margins.
In 2019 there will still be 23 million Americans without insurance, and thus without access to quality health care.
The law doesn’t do enough to ensure that our health system focuses on the kind of care that is most needed, e.g. primary care. Primary care has proven not only to improve the quality of health care, but also to cut costs as well.
Most disturbing, the law allows the same profit-hungry, inefficient health care industry to keep a stranglehold on all decisions. This is only to be expected, since former health industry executives helped write the bill, the health industry supplied six lobbyists for each member of Congress who worked on it, and that same industry donated tens of millions to congressional campaigns in exchange for the lawmakers’ complicity.
The simple remedy lies in a tried and true system that has offered dependable, efficient health care to all of its patients for 45 years: Medicare. By simply improving and expanding Medicare to cover all of our citizens and appropriately funding its efforts, instead of portioning them out to private insurance companies who make sure they take their cut first, we would have one system, not a crazy quilt of hundreds of plans.
It would make the question “Will I be able to afford basic health care?” obsolete.
Doctors and nurses believe this is the best way to go. Doctors realize that they have more power to make decisions that benefit their patients under an improved and universal Medicare system than a restrictive, arbitrary private insurance system.
The people know this is the answer. Business owners should jump at the chance for such a system to relieve them of the burden of covering their employees in a simple, fair way.
It makes too much sense, which is why the health care industry doesn’t want you to hear about it and why Medicare-for-all advocates were not even allowed at the table when the bill was being formed.
It’s time that all should know about it. We need compassionate government that provides health care for all. What we don’t need is an insurance industry that continues to make profit at the expense of our citizen’s health. We need to preserve what’s good in the new law but move beyond it to an improved and expanded Medicare for all. We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
John Cavacece, D.O., practices family medicine in Grand Rapids. He is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program.