By Roger LaBonte, M.D.
The Tennessean, March 3, 2017
President Donald Trump has indicated he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare.
His recent statements before the election seem to indicate his desire for a market-based solution. Several recent articles and editorials have demonstrated how dysfunctional our health care system is, principally by its reliance on the insurance-industrial complex.
Every attempt to correct and improve the system by legislation has given the health-insurance industry new incentives and ways to game the system for its own profit motive. Obamacare has turned out to be no different.
The rate increases in Tennessee of 44 percent to 62 percent, approved last year, and similar increases in other states have shifted more and more cost to employers who are mandated to provide coverage and in turn must pass this on to their employees. Employers should be in rebellion at their increasing cost of providing health care for employees as is currently mandated.
I do not understand why many businesses continue to support our current system. In fact, the only businesses that gain anything by this system of employer-provided health care are the insurance companies themselves, which continue to show huge profits while sucking profits from others.
Many of the newly under-insured will be surprised by what they do not have when they try to access health care. The insurance executives who say they cannot weather the losses incurred by their participation in the health-care marketplaces are still raking in profits for their executives. Shareholders are basically just confirming their unwillingness to include those in most need of health insurance in their risk pools.
Some enlightened businessmen have come to that conclusion, including Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries, Inc., who has supported single-payer national health insurance.
Many years ago, as a successful businessman, Trump had expressed the opinion that the best business solution to our dysfunctional health care system would be a national health care system with universal coverage for everyone, paid through taxes. I agree with his assessment at that time and hope that he will go back to considering this solution.
Imagine what that would do for the Republican Party’s popularity given that greater than 75 percent of our citizens want universal coverage. Under such an egalitarian and utilitarian system taxes would certainly go up for individuals and businesses, but the amount saved by not having to pay health insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance and other hidden fees would more than compensate businesses and individuals for the increase in taxes.
With Republicans now in control of all branches of government, let’s hope they can achieve universal healthcare for everyone while lowering the cost to everyone. Much of the rest of the world has shown us that universal health care is achievable at reasonable costs. More importantly we cannot identify as a caring nation until we properly care for the least among us.
Roger S. LaBonte, M.D. is president of the West Tennessee Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.