By John Benzinger, M.D.
Santa Fe New Mexican, March 19, 2016
The truth is that an improved, Medicare-for-all, single-payer system would cut costs drastically and provide coverage for everybody. Virtually every other developed country has an affordable universal system that proves the point.
It should be no surprise that our fragmented health care financing system, with dozens of insurance companies involved, is simply very inefficient and wasteful. Each insurance company has its own departments for enrollment, exclusions, referral, approvals, billing, sales and marketing. This massive duplication of effort is added to the cost of these for-profit businesses that often pay huge salaries to their CEOs and exclude as many payouts to patients as possible to maximize profit for its shareholders.
At issue is that single-payer threatens the multimillion-dollar paychecks of insurance companies and their CEOs, and the outrageous profits of drug and medical device companies and medical entrepreneurs. Under single-payer, private health insurance companies are gone and the system can negotiate for lower drug and medical device costs.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) did expand coverage and eliminate exclusions for pre-existing conditions; however, 25 million people are still uninsured and costs are spiraling. This is no surprise, since it left wasteful private insurance companies, Big Pharma and a profiteering system in place.
Republicans have vehemently opposed Obamacare from Day One while irresponsibly offering no alternative option of their own. The “plan” under the GOP’s effort to stumble back to the old status quo seems to be, “Don’t get sick!”
Only single-payer national health insurance can squeeze the bureaucratic waste out of health care and use the savings to give patients the care they need — affordable, high-quality and comprehensive care with no waits.
People are waking up to see that corporate greed is hurting Americans. We have a broken for-profit health care system. Quality is mediocre, and as I mentioned, more than 25 million Americans are still uninsured. Medicare, Medicaid and hospitals are under threat of new cuts. Meanwhile, the nation’s for-profit health industry nets billions in profits, and CEOs take home tens of millions in pay.
A single-payer, Medicare-for-all system would cut costs dramatically by streamlining health care paperwork and making health care affordable. Savings would be 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.
Consult Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org) and learn how you can help bring about a real universal health care system. Add your voice to the growing chorus, and tell our leaders to stand up for the health of the American people rather than the wealth of our richest firms.
John Benziger, M.D., is a recently retired physician who grew up, went to college and studied medicine in New Mexico.