By Dr. Judith Dasovich
Springfield (MO) News-Leader, Aug. 3, 2013
Employee-sponsored health insurance, or ESI, should be replaced with an affordable, efficient financing system.
During World War II, wage controls forced employers to compete for labor through benefits. Today, it is a burden on business and workers.
ESI puts American companies at a disadvantage. They have expenses that foreign competitors do not. Negotiations surrounding it sour relations between management and labor. Hiring is constrained by the cost of ESI. Entrepreneurship is stifled.
Starting a small business often means buying health insurance through the individual market. This is more expensive and may not be available due to pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act is supposed to outlaw denial of coverage, but it doesn’t outlaw price gouging.
ESI is expensive and inefficient. Overhead averages 14 percent compared to less than 3 percent for traditional Medicare because of complexity, marketing costs and administrative pay.
One of Springfield’s largest employers uses Coventry insurance. Coventry’s CEO makes $13 million a year, or $49,765 a day. Doctors, hospitals and businesses are all forced to incur higher overhead because of ESI’s business model.
ESI restricts freedom. Patients cannot choose their doctors or hospitals. They have to switch providers if the plan changes. This is dangerous and expensive. Workers pay for insurance while they are healthy. When they get sick, they lose their jobs and insurance. COBRA is time limited and too expensive for most people without incomes. This is an inhumane situation for the worker, but a sweet deal for the insurance companies.
It is a myth that higher out-of-pocket expenses control medical costs. Americans pay more than anyone in the industrialized world, but medical spending is much higher.
We have higher infant, maternal and overall mortality. People do not choose ovarian cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, like they choose a used Honda over a new BMW. They cannot “shop around.”
Choice of providers is restricted. It is almost impossible to know the cost before obtaining a medical service. Medical emergencies do not allow patients time to shop. Having “skin in the game” does not control costs. If it did, we would have the cheapest health care in the world.
There is a solution. U.S. House Resolution 676 supports a single payer system of national health insurance, or improved Medicare for all.
General tax revenues would pay for the continued private delivery of an essential service. This is the same way interstate highways are financed and built.
Doctors and hospitals would not be owned by the government.
Patients would be free to choose and stay with any provider or care center. They would not lose their insurance if they became sick or lost their job. Employers could tend to their businesses instead of health care expenses and administration.
As taxpayers, we would support a system that uses the money paid in for patient care, not administrative waste and profiteering. Ask your U.S. representative to endorse HR 676. Your personal and financial health may depend on it.
Dr. Judith Dasovich lives in Springfield. She is the former volunteer medical director at The Kitchen Clinic.