By Eric Naumburg, M.D., M.P.H.
The Baltimore Sun, Letters, March 2, 2020
Our country’s failure to enact a universal health care system — often called Improved Medicare for All or Single-Payer Health care — causes many hardships. Not-for-profit hospitals suing patients is one sad result (“As Maryland hospitals continue to sue patients, state lawmakers call for ‘guardrails,’” Feb. 28). This behavior is immoral because it leads to homelessness, hunger, delaying needed health care, personal bankruptcy, disrupting families, etc.
Increased numbers of people have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, yet national polling shows that more people (26%) report going without needed care than before passage of the ACA. Why is this? Employer sponsored health insurance plans have become skimpier and skimpier with employees paying high premiums, deductibles and co-pays for less coverage. Employers struggle to provide adequate employee health insurance while healthcare prices rise faster than wages and these forces have overwhelmed the positive benefits of the ACA.
A thoughtfully executed National Improved Medicare for All health system would cover everybody with no co-pays or deductibles. In fact, there would be no medical bills to decipher. Only the national health insurance system would be able to cover necessary care so all providers, hospitals, and doctors would be in the system. You would have choice of any doctor and hospital, no limited networks of providers, no surprise medical bills. You get to keep your own doctor.
The national health system would control prices because it could negotiate payment rates and drug costs. Hospitals would negotiate one annual budget with the national health system based on the community’s needs and demand for services. Savings from such a system would be dramatic as the complex medical billing system would be eliminated.
Dr. Eric Naumburg is co-chair of Maryland Physicians for a National Health Program.