By Sandra F. Penn, M.D.
Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 14, 2014
Remember when Sen. Domenici became an advocate for mental health parity? It came as no surprise to some of us that he had a “close relative” with mental health challenges.
Now, we were given a thorough piece about insurance issues in an UpFront column by Journal staff writer Win Quigley, who has a “close relative” who has been caught in the quagmire of prior authorization and insurance silos.
He ends his column with a suggestion that a plan that is “easy to use, easy to understand, consistent and fair would stand out in this or any other market.”
Well, yes! There is a plan just like that, and many of us have been advocating for it for years.
It is called Medicare, and we would like all of us enrolled in it.
Medicare for all would eliminate many of the conditions that now plague our convoluted system.
The Affordable Care Act has increased health insurance coverage and Medicaid expansion has been so important in our poor state.
Nevertheless, our multiplicity of insurance companies and their ways of controlling costs or trying to, can make all of us miserable when we are caught in the tangle.
The majority of us who need limited medical intervention at the moment are quite fortunate. When need appears, as with a personal illness or one in the family, we can no longer be philosophical about what is happening. It can be overwhelming.
Win suggests that the newly insured may not have the experience to know how to maneuver with insurance.
As a physician, I can tell you that even the long insured and the professional can be confused because it is almost a given that the system is meant to be anything but simple and easy to use.
Why do we not have a simple, easy to use national health insurance? Over the many years and multiple attempts, there is always some interest group that fears loss of income or loss of control.
The American Medical Association, the various insurance companies, physicians and ideologues with an interest in “small government,” have each in turn found ways to paint national health insurance as a fearsome thing.
There were “Harry and Louise,” “death panels” and “the government controlling what your doctor can do.”
Our electorate can be persuaded to vote against its actual interests by clever sound bites paid for by those who willingly make enormous sums of money from the process and from maintaining the current foul system.
Will that ever change?
That old saw often comes to mind: “Americans will do the right thing after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”
Dr. Sandra F. Penn is an Albuquerque resident.