By Jay Brock, M.D.
The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance Star, July 30, 2022
Most Americans get it: our dysfunctional health insurance system isn’t working for too many. Thirty million have no insurance. Another 40 million, given skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs, can’t afford to use the insurance they have. Some half-million Americans—most with insurance—undergo a medical bankruptcy each year, and 78% of Virginians worry about affording medical bills.
The system, while benefiting a few lucky Americans, isn’t working for most of us.
You’d think that making sure every American had not just “access” to health care but care they could actually afford would be a nonpartisan, bipartisan endeavor.
Not for most Washington politicians: health care lobbyists spend more than $600 million of our health care dollars each year making sure industry gets its way rather than assuring the rest of us can get affordable care.
Conservatives, apparently indifferent to the success and popularity of Social Security and Medicare, both publicly funded, seem to be especially adept at labeling affordable health care for all as some nefarious un-American plot that would destroy America (“Socialism!” “Government control!”) rather than as something that would allow us to keep up with the world’s other advanced nations.
So let’s look at seven reasons why conservatives of both parties should be keen to support Medicare for All—a popular single-payer health insurance system funded by public contributions, where health care would still be delivered by America’s excellent private providers.
MFA is much cheaper to run, consuming just 2–3% of healthcare dollars rather than the 15–20% it takes to run some private health insurers. Switching to MFA will save 600 billion health care dollars yearly just in administrative costs. That is a lot of money. Better to spend it on patients than on building a bigger medical bureaucracy.
MFA also saves money when it “bends the health care cost-curve”—the Holy Grail of health care economists and conservatives alike—because as a monopsony it will lower costs for goods and services it purchases. We could save $100 billion yearly on pharmaceuticals alone. No, essential creative health care industries won’t disappear—they will thrive just as they do in every other advanced nation with affordable universal coverage.
Everyone contributes, based on income, not an arbitrary premium, so it’s truly affordable. Universal contributions, by the way, is an idea straight from the conservative Heritage Foundation, based on “personal responsibility”—if you can share in its benefits, you should pay into the system. (It was only when Democrats used it that Republican conservatives began to despise such mandates.)
Based on the popularity of other similar government-funded programs, there should be less political interference with MFA than our current system, where politicians frequently put their fingers on the scales of healthcare access. Anyone familiar with the cries of “Keep the government out of my Social Security and Medicare” understands why interfering with these programs is still considered to be the “third rail” of American politics.
There is more competition under MFA, as artificial networks of providers that benefit the health insurance industry at the expense of patients are eliminated. All providers will compete for all patients based not on price (which will continue to be negotiated between the insurer and providers) but on service.
MFA is great for business. It takes the burden of health care costs off employers. Warren Buffett has called our current health care system the tapeworm of American competitiveness. Funding health care with public dollars will improve American competitiveness, globally and locally. It will also be easier to start a business. Or, since health insurance is no longer tied to one’s employment, for employees to change jobs.
Public funding of health care will help many areas, urban and rural, where health care access is sorely lacking. These areas don’t suffer from a lack of patients—they have too many patients who cannot afford medical care and either forgo care or receive care for which providers are not compensated. So hospitals go bust, or physicians aren’t to be found. Don’t believe anyone who says MFA will hurt these areas. When everyone has insurance they can afford, the reality is just the opposite.
Finally, what about the health insurance industry? As a hugely expensive and entirely unnecessary middleman, its days are numbered. Economists call its eventual demise “creative destruction.” (MFA sets aside billions of saved health care dollars to assure industry employees who lose their jobs will have a “soft landing” economically).
Liberal or conservative, these are health care values we should all share.
Most Americans support MFA.
Check with your candidate to see whether or not they agree.
Dr. Jay D. Brock is a retired physician living in Fredericksburg.