How Can National Health Care Save America 400 Billion Bucks and Cover Everyone Equally

DrDianeReed

By Dr. Diana Reed

We spend nearly twice as much as other countries for health care, but where does all the money go? On wasteful poor people who frequent the ER unnecessarily? On doctors’ salaries and charges? On expensive tests and life-saving treatments that shouldn’t have been done? On fraud and abuse? That’s what some would have you believe. The real culprits are insurance corporations, managed care administrators and lawyers in the business of malpractice suits and perpetuation of the medico-legal system, who together make hundreds of billions from our country’s health care dollars. People who have never placed a stethoscope on a child’s wheezing chest at 2 am have more control over health care than the child’s doctor. They make multi-million dollar salaries for running health care like a business, where the less they spend on the patient, the more of your premium they keep in their pockets. The corporate mentality with its prime directive, states profits come first, before people’s lives. Their corporate existence relies on making money for the few at the expense of many people’s lives. They make more than they can spend in a lifetime, from the broken bones that were never properly set, the lost loved ones who died at home so they wouldn’t leave their families with huge medical debts, the people who can’t afford their blood pressure or cholesterol medicine and the doctor visits or labs, and risk a preventable heart attack or stroke.

Yes, it is a sad fact that we rank 37th in the quality of our health care compared to other developed countries, most of which have national health care. So many people never receive care until they are in dire straits and show up in the ER because they had no health insurance. For all our talk about “right to life”, the real irony is our willingness to let 88,000 fellow citizens die in 2011 alone, 45,000 in 2010, due to lack of health insurance, including pregnant women who are poor. Are unborn infants the only ones with a right to life? The average family of four in America spends about $19,000 per year on health care related costs, higher than ever before. The US government spends nearly twice as much as other countries and 53 million citizens are still uninsured.

So, what would happen if we elected a congress that voted for HR676, the proposal for Expanded Medicare for All, which has languished in backroom committees for years without even being brought up for a vote? Would the skies fall down? Would we spend more or spend less while covering all US citizens with equal coverage under the law? This legislation, introduced by Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Bernie Sanders would replace the well-intentioned, but flawed PPACA, or Obama Care. The problem is that we will still be putting our money into the hands of the same crooks who have brought our health care system to its knees, and adding to the complexity that doctors have to deal with each day.

If we adopt a national health care plan, we will provide a new layer of security for all citizens and promote real small business startups, since health insurance is one of the top reasons smart entrepreneurs stay in unsatisfactory jobs, and is one of the main cost worries for a small business. Without the risk of health care costs spiraling further out of control, health care would be affordable and no longer tied to economic class or to one’s work. The potential economic benefit for small businesses could be huge. Talk about a stimulus!

To fund the National plan we would all kick in more in Medicare taxes, and it would be based on a percentage of income. The cap currently on Medicare taxes would be removed allowing the rich to pay their fair share, just as the poor do. By removing this loophole for the wealthy, this program would pay for itself. The savings from the $19,000 average annual family health care costs would be dramatic and allow people to see their doctors as needed, not according to their ability to pay.  The Medicare premium they pay would be a predictable monthly expense regardless of whether they got critically ill or remained healthy.  Health care quality can only go up, as more people treat medical conditions early and get recommended screening tests. There will likely be better compliance with medications and treatments that people will receive without having to shell out money they can’t afford.

The insurance stocks would probably take a dive, and there would obviously be some layoffs of jobs that for most could be replaced with other not-for-profit health care related work. It would be fairly easy to enroll people into the Expanded Medicare system. Medicare has been running 3-5% administrative overhead for a long time now and is more efficient at paying physicians than most of the commercial insurance companies. Contrast that with 31% overhead for these giant corporations who assume no liability but ration care and set up elaborate skyscrapers. By cutting out these administrative costs middlemen and their profits, it is estimated that we could save at least $350 billion, according to an article by Dr Steffie Woolhandler, et al in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite that, there is still a great deal of mistrust about the government and its ability to run efficiently. Physicians, who have fought the battle year after year against annual Medicare cuts, are naturally skeptical that they would be reimbursed fairly and well enough to have a decent lifestyle. Currently, it costs the doctor more to see a Medicaid patient than the reimbursement they receive. After all their years of intense training, all the sacrifices of their personal lives and all the long hours they spend helping others, don’t physicians deserve to be paid well? If we had a national health care plan, I believe that the reduction in hours spent doing needless paperwork, and the savings that would affect all small businesses, would improve the profession significantly. Physicians could choose a salaried or fee for service payment, but there should be some equality restored among the various specialties as well. With a national health care plan, we as a country could afford to pay our doctors well, and return this noble profession to the respected status it once enjoyed. I have met many people, including physicians from various countries that were very happy with their country’s health plans. How many of us can say that?  But somehow the media tends to ignore or bury the issue, like the pink elephant in the room.

On an individual or family basis, you would expect to see a small rise in the Medicare deduction from your paycheck. However, if you need to see a doctor for whatever reason, you can just make an appointment and go. No reams of forms insurance confirmation, authorizations or preauthorizations at the front desk. No copays, coinsurance, deductible, expensive  prescriptions, no lifetime maximum, no preexisting condition denials, no denials for surgery or chemotherapy that you and your doctor agree are necessary, and you have the right and the dignity of knowing your life and your health care are valued equally to the guy in the hospital bed next to you in this country. You don’t have some hospital administrator coming to visit you to ask you how you plan to pay the thousands of dollars that broken arm cost, or the fear that medical bankruptcy will be a fate worse than death.

Primary control over quality issues, setting standards of health care and monitoring them will be up to physicians on medical boards that have real medical knowledge and up to date practice skills. We can save at least $400 BILLION DOLLARS by getting rid of the middlemen! For more information on national health care, check out Physicians for a National Health Care Plan, PNHP.org, with more than 18,000 members who have been advocates for single payer or universal health care for a long time. Very prominent and well respected physicians have brought together original research, national economic reports and statistics from sources like the Congressional Budget Office. These physicians are some of the most dedicated humanitarians I have had the honor to meet. Most importantly, these are your hard working, professional and most brilliant doctors, America, that are hurting.

We as a people can fix this, for doctors and patients, but it will take education, a consensus and demanding that our elected officials stand up to the special interests or face defeat in the next elections. This bickering and obstructionism has to stop. If the republicans want to replace Obamacare with meaningful reform that is fiscally conservative even if slightly socialistic, then this is your plan. If Democrats want a solution that covers everyone and is fair to all, then this is your plan. This is not an entitlement plan, we all would pay for it on a sliding scale, as we do with Medicare now.

There are many other groups fighting for national health care, like the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Student Association, the American Public Health Association, and the League of Women Voters. HR 676 has been endorsed by 508 union organizations in 49 states.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” At some point everyone, regardless of their station in life will face death, the great equalizer. How can you pursue happiness without your life? Health care access is a matter of life and death, not an optional expense. As we humans evolve, we should realize that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a healthy population. We can go to war, spending billions, to save and protect our citizens’ lives; but we can’t treat that Strep throat before it turns into pneumonia and potentially kills a person? We can pay taxes for fire departments, police, food and water safety, but health care paid for by all and available to all is not worthy of our government to provide? Almost 70% of Americans in several national polls want national health care. Most physicians want national health care. What’s holding us back? It is the almighty dollar and the control over it that is driving this health care crisis. Those in power won’t relinquish it without a fight to preserve the status quo.

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Bio of Craig Oster, PhD

25-year survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) & Co-founder / Scientist / Advocate at THE HEALERS campaign.

In 1994, at the age of 30, Craig Oster was given the “death sentence” diagnosis of ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Even though Craig’s physical functioning was slipping away, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1996. Dr. Craig entered hospice in late 2008. Dr. Craig’s fierce holistic quest turned his condition toward healing and he was discharged from hospice on May 30th, 2009.

Dr. Craig co-founded THE HEALERS Campaign on New Year’s Day 2012 with a mission to:
  • Demonstrate as much wellness as possible using his integrative approach focused on diet/nutrition, mind/spirit, and physical exercise
  • Inspire people to constructively approach whatever “hand that they have been dealt in life”
  • Conduct innovative ALS scientific peer-reviewed research that has the potential to enhance the wellness and quality of lives of people with ALS and their caregivers.

Over 50 renowned integrative medicine doctors, other health professionals and scientists have joined Dr. Craig’s ALS scientific research and holistic health educational campaign advisory team.

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