Another political season and here comes the “noise and smoke” as to why we cannot have health care for all Americans.
We already spend essentially twice as much as most other advanced nations on health care yet our outcomes lag, tens of millions are uninsured and as many have “underinsurance” with high deductibles and co-pays making it unusable. Medical bills are a major source of personal bankruptcy and financial distress in America — insured or not.
With all that money spent, how can this be? Where is the money? Multiple studies demonstrate that it is, in large part, wasted in our complex and fragmented system. A recent UMass economic analysis of-medicare for all shows this. This allows for extraction of nearly a third of the money for profit-taking and bloated administrative waste. You cannot fix this by adding to the complexity: Adding a public option won’t, buying into Medicare or Medicaid (both now increasingly fragmented and increasingly privatized) won’t either. The current mantra is that Americans like (like?) their private corporate insurance — with their high deductibles, co-pays and narrow provider panels — so you cannot do away with that either. What people really would like is the healthcare they need, when they need it with the providers they chose and without loss of dignity and financial distress. So, keeping our private, corporate insurance for our essential needs won’t fix our problem either.
In America, only a publicly funded program with fair progressive taxation can provide improved and expanded health care to cover all needed care including dental and long term care — without burdensome deductibles and co-pays. (Some European countries have highly regulated multi-payer systems that work but act much like a single payer system due to the regulations. We, as a nation have powerful anti-regulation forces that would make this a perpetual struggle.)
Now comes the “but it will cost trillions of dollars!” Remember, we already spend the money in so many ways. It is just poorly allocated and wasted in our, you guessed it, complex and fragmented system. Past time for new, improved and expanded Medicare for all.
Next is the “socialism” attack. This is only a word but it is used as a label. It is deliberately used to conger up some scary despot harshly ruling over some awful dystopian society. Manipulation. We have long pooled our resources for services we deem in our common interest that are more efficiently done together — policing and fire protection are easy examples among many. Why not healthcare for us, our loved ones, neighbors and fellow citizens?
About the author: Timothy Lambert, D.O., is a family physician in Traverse City.