By Elizabeth Hakas, M.D.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 21, 2017
As a person with 30 years of experience working in health care (first, as a medical assistant during college, and later, as a physician), I am very concerned about the GOP’s American Health Care Act. It will remove $880 billion in funding from Medicaid and remove the subsidies that help millions of Americans buy private health insurance. I must admit that I was not a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but the AHCA is much worse — a disaster in the making.
I will tell you my bias upfront: I am in favor of a single-payer system for our country, in which the government acts as “insurer” or “payer” and the care is provided through various means (private practices, community clinics, academic and community hospitals, etc. — just like now!) such as is the case in Canada. It would reduce administrative costs, and we could use the saved money to pay for care, rather than to line the pockets of insurance company executives. Such a system should be unconnected to one’s employment status and funded by taxes.
If we took all of the money that employers and workers pay toward their health “insurance” now, and instead called that “taxes,” it would be more than enough to provide excellent coverage for every single American. It just makes sense.
When I discuss this issue with my physician friends and colleagues, I am amazed at how many of them agree with this. I have yet to talk to a single physician who favors the AHCA over the ACA, and I have talked to many who favor single payer. This is in line with multiple national polls of physicians, which indicate that a national single-payer system (such as the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, HR 676) is the most favored option among a majority of practicing physicians in this country. It is fair and morally correct that everyone in the U.S. have access to decent health care and that it be available consistently despite the changes that occur occasionally in most people’s lives: periods of unemployment, financial challenges, pre-existing conditions, etc.
I hope to see a single-payer health care system instituted in this country in my lifetime. In the meantime, we should all be vigorously rejecting the AHCA, which is a terrible step backward.