Steve Chapman’s opinion on universal health care was based largely on health insurance spin that will be coming at readers strong and hard in the next months. I have asked to be a guest columnist to provide readers with another perspective and a few questions.
You know the value of your home and car. Insure them. But what is the value of your spouse’s life? Your child’s? That is why private health insurance will always destroy health care. They can charge unlimited amounts to make a profit based on our human vulnerability. Profit in health care is the core problem. All other developed countries no longer allow profit in the health care payment sector (some countries have small levels of regulated not for profit insurance). Paying for health care around the world is a nonprofit public service that benefits all society except in the U.S.
Manipulation of prices by insurance companies and profitable hospital systems (often university or corporate owned) have elevated cost of health care to absurd levels. Unregulated corporate greed is driving the for-profit system. Uncontrolled drug prices, excessive hospital construction, equipment acquisition and multilevel administration has sucked billions of dollars out of the health care system. Medical workers are forced into data entry and conveyor belt care as corporations run the system. Many Americans cannot afford care (copays, deductibles, co-insurance, drug prices, surprise billing). Once loved as community servants, hospitals are taking the sick to court for payments and health care costs have become the number one source of bankruptcy. Hospitals today are very profitable and will lose money when they provide transparent billing to a single payor. This is a correction not a concern and will pull hospitals off the greed train and back to their noble roots.
Businesses today put time, energy and dollars into private health insurance. Some of the biggest employers are becoming self-insured. Our corporations becoming health care managers negatively impacts their global competition. With single-payor health care businesses are out of the health care mess. Their employees would have affordable health care that requires a payment collected as a tax based on income. No meetings to pick health plan change each year. And health insurance would not affect a business’ ability to recruit good employees. They could focus employee retention on work environment and other benefits like wages. When is the last time you had a raise or bonus? What if school districts, cities and other large employers did not have to pay private health insurance premiums with our tax dollars? Imagine the community benefits that could produce.
Now some simple, but large, mathematics. Studies sponsored by those invested in the present system (questionably biased) put universal health care costs at 3.2 trillion/year or 32 trillion over 10 years. (I am not sure why recent conversation to a decade number, but we can do the math.) The present U.S. spending on health care is 3.4 trillion/year or 34 trillion over 10 years. So universal health care under today’s inflated prices will save us $2 trillion a year or $20 trillion over a decade! Imagine the savings if we calculated on the real cost of health care. Hmmmm, interesting and let me ask…..
Who is healthiest person you know? How much do they use the American health care system? We have a disease management system not a health system. We chase the damage, examine with tests, treat with procedures and medicines. More charges, more profits. Majority of health care spending today is related to behavior-related illness. With the extra trillions we could have effective mental health and behavior change programs. This could drastically cut the cost from addiction and obesity related disease. These “talk therapies” today are often not reimbursed by insurance. A new universal health care system would treat you throughout life and has the incentive to keep you healthy.
Is it starting to sound different? Is the health care argument easier to sort when you think of these basic components: you can only insure things with known value and a for profit system will never encourage health.
We can solve this payment problem and create a better health care system. If you pay the true cost of care and put in programs to reduce disease you can always beat a system that encourages procedures and medicines and elevates the price on both.
We need to end our love affair with private health insurance. Do you really care who the payor is if they pay the bills and encourage your best health? Doesn’t it matter more that you get the right care when you need it? And that your co-worker and your neighbor and your post woman and your handy man — everyone has care.
This would create freedom for all Americans.
Dr. Kristine Hembre is co-chair of El Paso County for Universal Healthcare, a nonprofit advocacy group representing a branch of Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care. She is a retired physician.