By George Bohmfalk, M.D.
Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle, February 17, 2020
Contrary to Congressman Burgess’ claim in a recent congressional hearing, people should want to give up their private insurance plans.
In the Dec. 12 House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Proposals to Achieve Universal Health Care Coverage, Congressman Burgess paraphrased a 2018 Gallup poll finding to say that “more than 70% of Americans like their employer-provided health insurance plans.”
Such a statement doesn’t mean much and probably isn’t true.
Employer-provided health insurance has become so expensive that people quit their jobs to qualify for Medicaid. Around a million Americans dropped their coverage as premiums rose in 2017. Women with breast cancer delay care because of high deductibles. A young diabetic is “alive today not because of insurance companies but despite them.” A college basketball coach waited in pain for two months before his insurer approved tests that diagnosed his cancer, during which time he became paralyzed.
We hear, over and over, that most Americans love their current health insurance plans and do not want to give them up for a government-financed program. That is insurance industry propaganda, and it’s not true.
Everyone cares about having their choice of doctors and hospitals. No one really cares who writes their health insurance policy. People are fond of their doctors, not Blue Cross, Anthem, WellPoint or Cigna. We all need dependable healthcare coverage at an affordable price. That is rapidly disappearing in the private marketplace.
In an August Business Insider poll, 59% of respondents said they would switch their employer-based health insurance to Medicare for All as long as it meant no change in coverage. Finally, the question was properly asked.
An even better question would be whether they would switch if they would get substantially better coverage, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing care, with no deductibles or copays. And that they could keep their doctors and go to any hospital. And that they and their employer would pay less for this than they currently do.
This is the guarantee of Medicare for All. So why isn’t everyone demanding it?
First, they simply don’t know about it. Poll after poll after poll reveal that many Americans have either never heard of Medicare for All or don’t know enough to form an opinion. Others recoil from the mere idea of a government-financed program, although as they approach 65, most are eager to get on Medicare. Others fear that these promises are just too good to be true and would rather stick with a familiar, if worsening, private insurance plan.
These promises are true. Every other modern country offers universal health care for their citizens for about half of what we spend per capita. They don’t wait in long lines or have rationed care. Their health outcomes, including life expectancy, are better than ours. If you want a familiar plan, look at Medicare. It’s highly popular and efficient, with a 50-year track record. Medicare for All will be a dramatic improvement in that program, while eliminating the profound administrative waste and rationing that are part and parcel of the private insurance industry. This one-size-fits-all plan is ideal precisely because it does fit all the needs of all people.
What’s the downside? None, unless you are a highly-paid insurance company executive. We waste billions each year on a uniquely inefficient system that no serious businessperson can defend. We truly can have comprehensive, permanent, privately delivered healthcare coverage at lower cost with Medicare for All. It will benefit families and businesses. There’s not a single valid reason not to do it.
So of course you want to give up your employer-provided healthcare plan. It’s failing you, your employer, and your family. It’s failing the country. It’s rapidly becoming unaffordable. It’s restricting your choice of doctors and hospitals. It’s benefiting insurance executives and shareholders at the expense of your health, wages and pocketbook. Tell Congressman Burgess and other representatives that you want to give it up soon, for truly protective and efficient Medicare for All.