By John Benziger, M.D.
Letters, Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine), Jan. 7, 2012
Last year, people woke up to the fact that corporate greed and injustice are hurting Americans.
We have a broken for-profit health care system. More than 50 million Americans are uninsured. Medicare and hospitals, along with other public programs like Medicaid, are under constant threat of new cuts by lawmakers. Meanwhile, last year, the nation’s five largest for-profit health insurers netted $11.7 billion in profits, and their CEOs took $54.4 million in pay.
Private insurers succeed not by offering better healthcare. They maximize profits by charging high premiums, avoiding high-risk individuals, limiting services for those they do cover, and, whenever possible, shifting costs to other payers or to individuals in the form of high deductibles and co-payments.
It’s a chaotic and fragmented system that requires a mountain of expensive paperwork and wastes 30 cents of every health care dollar.
Every other advanced nation in the world sees health care as a basic right and provides good quality care to everyone — from birth to death — at half the cost of our wasteful system.
This should be the goal of American health care reform. The system should be nonprofit and facilitate the delivery of health care services, protect individuals and families against huge medical care expenses and avoid breaking the national bank in the process.
A single-payer, improved Medicare for all could cut costs dramatically by streamlining health care paperwork and making health care affordable. Savings would be more than enough to provide coverage for everyone, without any additional spending.
The concept is popular with the American people and enjoys the support of most doctors. We need tell our leaders to stand up for the health of the American people rather than the wealth of our richest firms.
Dr. John Benziger resides in South China, Maine.