In her Feb. 16 column, Cynthia Tucker claims that many health experts say a Medicare for All plan which includes dental, vision coverage, mental health care and long-term care can’t be done while saving money. Yet many health experts say it can.
Furthermore, it’s more than politics that keeps us from having Medicare for All; it’s the insurance companies that have spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep it from becoming a reality. The current Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was designed by the insurance companies with their own interests (profits) placed first and the health care of Americans second.
Gerald Freedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, told the Huffington Post in January that he estimates “a single-payer system would save about $600 million in its first year alone.” Single-payer savings would come from reducing the money and resources that currently go into administering the private health insurance system, such as eliminating the enormous dollar costs that are faced by every medical office for maintaining staff needed to decipher the cost of procedures, and what and how much the insurance companies will reimburse.
Savings also would come from eliminating overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments, as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. As a result, administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars, most of which is waste.
According to Physicians for National Health Plan (PNHP), “Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $400 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.”
Under a single-payer system, PHNP states that “all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as co-pays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
“Physicians would be paid fee-for-service according to a negotiated formulary or receive a salary from a hospital or nonprofit HMO/group practice. Hospitals would receive a global budget for operating expenses. Health facilities and expensive equipment purchases would be managed by regional health planning boards.
“A single-payer system would be financed by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste. Modest new taxes, based on ability to pay, would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business. Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing.”
While the Bernie Sanders plan may be vague, there are plenty of people say it can be done, and that includes Jill Stein, of the Green Party.
It’s time for a public discussion of the issue, not a discussion lead by the wealthy insurance companies and their political cronies. The public has a right to the real facts and should have an opportunity to decide for itself.