Felicia Muftic – Curing what ails health care
Grand County, Colorado
The GOP is trying to get you to believe a public option health insurance plan would be bad medicine. They are selling a bunch of snake oil arguments and they want you to take two aspirins little stronger than the ones you already took.
Here are their arguments: 1) Government will get between you and your doctor or hospital; 2) Government is so inefficient, we cannot afford to pay for a government plan; 3) Private insurance companies would die because they could not compete with a government option; 4) We will be just like Canada (heaven forbid).
However, Republicans have not yet offered a prescription to treat some underlying causes of the disease. They want you to continue to swallow high administrative costs of private insurers and they have not prescribed a cost effective cure that would provide help for the 45 million who cannot afford health insurance.
President Obama has promised us a choice between public and private insurers, and a choice of doctors and hospitals. It is difficult, given such choices, to see how government would get between you and your doctor as both compete to give you the best care for your buck.
Contrary to common wisdom, Medicare and Medicaid, our government provided health plans, have lower administrative costs by a long shot than do private insurers. Furthermore, we cannot afford to wait; medical consumers will soon be on life support.
As a nation, we have one of the most inefficient uses of health care dollars in the world. We pay more and we get less. According to Dr. Joel Levine, the dean of the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine who has surveyed the industrialized world’s health care systems, no one in the world is happy with their health care system, but all except us have an element of a national health care plan. Per Dr. Levine, the United States spends more per person on health care than any other industrialized nation; nearly 50 percent more than Switzerland and twice as much as other European countries. U.S. health care consumes around 17 percent of our gross domestic product, while most other industrialized countries with public health plans spend as little as 7 percent to 10 percent of GDP. Despite this cost, the United States ranks near the bottom in 26 of 27 measures of quality of outcome.
One reason is that 45 million in the United States do not have sufficient take home pay or employer provided insurance to pay for private health insurance. They seek care through a high cost emergency room after their ailments have reached the expensive treatment point. They do not have access to preventative care. Uninsured are twice as likely to have a premature death than the insured.
If you have adequate insurance, you are already paying for the uninsured in higher premiums and deductibles. As the uninsured seek care by ER, they stick providers with unpaid bills. (About 60 percent of bankruptcies are caused by inability to pay medical bills.) Those costs are shifted to you as higher premiums and deductibles.
Medicare recipients should also sit up and take notice. Medicare is going bankrupt in by 2017 unless health care costs are reduced. U.S. health care will increase to 20 percent of our gross domestic product in a few years and by 2020, the cost of non-employer provided health insurance will be 41 percent of a family’s take home pay, according to Dr. Levine.
Key to forcing private insurers to lower administrative costs is competition with a public health plan. The GOP is bent on protecting private insurers from competition and so far offer no other way to control high administrative costs. The Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), composed of private health insurers and their insurance agents, conducted a study comparing the administrative costs of private insurance with Medicare. Medicare is similar to what Obama has in mind for a public option. If commissions, profits, and premium taxes are included, the private sector administrative costs are 16.7 percent vs. 5.2 percent for Medicare. Obviously, private insurers would have to take a hit on commissions and profits to compete with a government plan. Dang.
Would private insurers fade away because they could not compete with a public option? Will we become another Canada? What Obama proposes is not the Canadian single payer system. He wants parallel public and private plans so you can choose. Per Dr. Levine, unique of all industrialized countries with a national health plan, the Canadian system does not allow comprehensive private insurance plans, though private insurers flourish with sales of supplemental and dental plans. All other industrialized nations permit competition between private insurers and their own national health plans and private health plans exist and compete successfully.
Yet to be revealed is any GOP plan to help the currently uninsured afford health insurance. Do they want taxpayers to subsidize private insurers? Unknown, too, are funding details for the Democrats’ plans. Stay tuned for a long, hot summer of debate.
– Visit the Muftic Forum blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com (topics: Half-baked health care reform proposals; Obama outed in Cairo) and her Web site at http://www.mufticforum.com with links to CAHI data on the resource page.
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