Today’s New York Times Opinion piece on universal health care is a timely one, given the attempts by the medical-industrial complex and their allies to derail any move towards health care for all. It is even more important now that the 2020 Democratic primary campaign is gaining momentum.
Negotiate hospital bills? Why not negotiate drug costs, insurance premiums, co-pays, deductables, etc.?
Instead of playing this game, why not Improved Medicare for All. This way, no one will get sick paying for health care that is too damn expensive.
Doctors’ bills play a role in 60 percent of personal-bankruptcy filings.
For the next twenty-one months, there will be a national debate carried on during the presidential campaign regarding the direction this country will take about providing health care to all Americans.
However, to anyone who reads the articles, posts and comments on the social media site, LinkedIn, that debate is already occurring, and most of it is one-sided against Medicare for All/Single Payer. The individuals conducting this debate are for the most part in the health care field, as either physicians, pharmaceutical industry employees, hospital systems executives, insurance company executives, and so on.
We also find employee benefits specialists and other consultants to the health care industry, plus many academics in the health care space, and many general business people commenting, parroting the talking points from right-wing media.
That is why I re-posted articles from my fellow blogger, Joe Paduda last week and yesterday, who is infinitely more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, and has far more experience in the health care field, that not only predicts Medicare for All (or what he would like to see, Medicaid for All), but has vigorously defended it and explained it to those who have misconceptions.
For that, I am grateful, and will continue to acknowledge his work on my blog. But what has caused me to write this article is the fact that most of the criticism of Medicare for All/Single Payer is because those individuals who are posting or commenting, are defending their turf.
I get that. They get paid to do that, or they depend on the current system to pay their salaries, so naturally they are against anything that would harm that relationship.
But what really gets me is that they are deciding that they have the right to tell the rest of us that we must continue to experience this broken, complex and complicated system just so that they can make money. And that they have a right to prevent us from getting lower cost health care that provides better outcomes and does not leave millions under-insured or uninsured.
However, not all these individuals are doing this because of their jobs. Some are doing so because they are wedded to an economic and political ideology based on the free market as the answer to every social issue, including health care. They argue that if we only had a true free market, competitive health care system, the costs would come down.
But as we have seen with the rise in prices for many medications such as insulin and other life-saving drugs, the free market companies have jacked up the prices simply because they can, and because lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry have forced Congress to pass a law forbidding the government from negotiating prices, as other nation’s governments do.
Yet, no other Western country has such a system, nor are they copying ours as it exists today. On the contrary, they have universal health care for their citizens, and by all measures, their systems are cheaper to run, and have better outcomes.
None of these countries can be considered “Socialist” countries, and even the most anti-Socialist, anti-Communist British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said the following, “Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”
Notice that Sir Winston did not say, free market competition. He knew that competition is fine for selling automobiles, clothing, food, and other goods and services. But not health care.
He also said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else. We’ve tried the free market in health care, and drug prices and other medical prices are through the roof.
However, another thing they have not done, and I believe none of the other OECD countries have done about health care, is to divide the “market” into silos such as the elderly with Medicare, the poor with Medicaid, children with CHIP, veterans with the VA, and their families with Tricare, etc.
No, they pay for all their citizens from a global budget, and do not distinguish between age level, income level, or service in the armed forces.
And their systems do not restrict what medical care their people receive, so that no only do they have medical care, but dental care, vision care, and hearing care. It is comprehensive. And if they have the money to pay for it, they can purchase private health insurance for everything else.
In the run-up to the debate and vote in the UK on Brexit, the point was raised that while Britain was a member of the EU, their retirees who went to Spain to retire, never had to buy insurance because the Spanish providers would bill the NHS.
However, once Britain leaves the EU, they will have to buy insurance privately, because the NHS won’t pay for it. But not all retirees can afford private insurance, so many British citizens will have a problem.
As I have mentioned before in this blog, I was diagnosed with ESRD, and am paying $400 every three months for Medicare Part B. I was doing so while spending down money I received after my mother passed away in 2017. My brother and I sold her assets and used that money to purchase property so that she could go on Medicaid, and eventually into a nursing home when the time came for her to be cared for around the clock.
Since my diagnosis, and prior, I was not working, so spending $400 every three months, and paying for many of my meds, has been difficult. I am getting help with some of the meds, and one is free because my local supermarket chain, Publix gives it for free (Amlodipine).
I hope to be on Medicaid soon, but would much rather see me and my fellow Americans get Medicare for All, and not have to pay so much for it. (a side note: we have seen that Medicaid expansion has been haphazard, or reversed, even when the government is paying 90% of it)
So why are we not doing what everyone else does? For one thing, greed. Drug companies led by individuals like Martin Shkreli, who is now enjoying the hospitality of the federal government, and others are not evil, they are following the dictates of the free market that many are advocating we need. No thanks.
For another, Wall Street has sold the health care sector as another profit center that creates a huge return on investment by investors and shareholders in these companies and hospital systems. Consolidation in health care is no different than if two non-health care companies merge, or one company buys another for a strategic advantage in the marketplace.
There’s that word again: market. We already have a free market health care system, that is why is it broken. What we need is finance health care by the government and leave the providing of health care private. That’s what most other countries do.
So those of you standing in the way of Medicare for All/Single Payer, be advised. We are not going to let you deny us what is a right and not a privilege. We will not let you deny us what every other major Western country gives its people: universal, single payer health care.
Your time is nearly up.
Following on the heels of yesterday’s post from Joe, today’s post covers the cost of healthcare, and what Medicare for All could do to solve it.
Recently, two billionaires, Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former barista-in-chief Howard Schultz have both said that the US cannot afford Medicare for All/Single Payer health care.
But if we look at Joe’s article, and his subsequent ones later this week, can we afford not to?
Here’s Joe’s article:
This week we are unpacking Single Payer/Medicare for All to better understand the many variations of SP/MFA and now they are different, how those variations might work, and whether some version is a) politically viable and b) would solve the … Continue reading Could Medicare for All Solve the healthcare cost problem?
Once again, my fellow blogger, Joe Paduda hits it out of the ballpark in explaining Single Payer and Medicare For All.
Most of what you hear comes from politicians and a few billionaires, one running for President and one not; one a former barista, the other a former big city mayor.
But there is also a lot of misinformation and wrong information on the Internet, especially on social media sites like LinkedIn, where the professionals in the health care or insurance space spout off their opposition to Single Payer/Medicare For All mostly because it will disrupt their businesses and may even cost them their jobs. But never mind that millions of Americans can’t afford insurance, or have very little insurance to protect them in case of severe illness or disease.
These individuals are not physicians, nor are they executives with insurance companies, or hospitals; but rather, they are consultants and analysts who offer their services to the health care industry.
But not all commenters are in the health care field, many are just average business people or citizens who put their two cents into the discussion threads, without knowing what they are talking about, or without any facts to back up their argument.
One common refrain is that Single Payer/Medicare For All is government-controlled health care. It isn’t, it’s government financed health care, but to their minds, any time the government pays for something, they “control” it.
So, Joe’s article today is sorely need to clear up any misconceptions.
Here it is:
It’s the worst kind of government over-reach. It’s an easy solution to a huge problem that will cost nothing. And everything in between. Between now and Election Day you are going to hear a lot about Medicare for All and … Continue reading What’s all this about Single Payer and Medicare For All?
A post on LinkedIn by Jaimy Lee, Health Care Editor at LinkedIn, reported Thursday that a pair of surveys indicated that health care is getting more expensive for many workers in the US.
Ms. Lee states that,
“Of the roughly 50% of Americans who get their health insurance from their employer, the cost of the average single premium rose 3% and the average family premium jumped 5% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That means premium rate increases are rising faster than inflation, which rose 2.5% during the same period.”
In addition, the Kaiser survey reported that:
- The average annual premium last year for one person was $6,896 and $19,616 for a family in 2018. (Workers have to pay for, on average, between 18% and 29% of their premium.)
- The average deductible amount for single coverage in 2018 was $1,573. That’s similar to 2017.
And that a separate survey stated that, 45% of Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 years old were underinsured — meaning they have health insurance but their out-of-pocket costs exceed at least 10% of their household income — in 2018. [Emphasis added]
And, in a blow to those who would like to keep the current employer-based system and not move towards an improved and expanded Medicare-for-All system, a growing number of the underinsured are people who get their health benefits through their employers. That’s up 20% over the last four years. (Traditionally the underinsured are adults who buy insurance on the individual market.)
Ms. Lee closes her post on employer-based health care underinsured workers with the following from Vox:
“In a great historical irony, the evident faults of employer-sponsored insurance are helping fuel a new appetite for Medicare-for-all, a single-payer system where everybody gets health coverage from the government,” writes journalist Dylan Scott. “Shifting 160 million people from the coverage they currently get through their jobs to a new government plan is a lot of disruption — and disruption, especially in health care, has historically made a lot of Americans nervous.”
They may be nervous at first, but it would be much better to be fully insured and nervous for a short time, than to be uninsured and nervous worrying about how they will afford ever increasing costs of insurance.
Medicare-for-All is the only way to provide such piece of mind.
It is rare when someone from the work comp blogosphere crosses into health care and advocates that the US learn from other countries that have universal health care, in whatever form it takes in those countries.
Tom Lynch of Lynch Ryan’s Workers’ Comp Insider blog, did just that with a very detailed analysis of the US health care system compared to that of other Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) countries.
Here is Tom’s article:
What does a nation owe its citizens with respect to health care?
For nearly all members of the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD), the answer is guaranteed, high-quality, universal care at reasonable, affordable cost. For OECD founding member America, the answer seems to have become an opportunity to access care, which may or may not be of high-quality at indeterminate, wildly fluctuating and geographically varying cost.
It is indisputable that the US devotes more of its GDP to health care than other countries. How much more? For that answer we can turn to many sources, roughly all saying the same thing. The OECD produces annual date, as does the World Health Organization, among others. Another reliable and respected source is The Commonwealth Fund, which conducted a study of eleven high income OECD members including the US. The collection of health care cost data lags, so data from this study is mostly from 2014. Here is the cost picture:
As you can see, in 1980, US spending was not much different from the other ten OECD countries in the study. While high, it was at least in the same universe. But now, at 50% more than Switzerland, our closest competitor in the “how much can we spend” sweepstakes”, we might be forgiven for asking, “What in the name of Hippocrates happened?” As if this weren’t enough, the 2014 GDP percentage of spend, 16.6%, has now risen to nearly 18%, according to the CMS.
So, what do we get for all that money? We ought to have the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant mortality rate and the best health care outcomes in the entire OECD. But we don’t.
For many readers, it is probably galling to see both the UK and Australia at the top of the health care system performance measure and at the bottom of the spending measure. In the early 2000s, each of these countries poured a significant amount of money into improving its performance, and the results speak for themselves.
Consider all of this mere background to the purpose of this blog post.
Last week, we wrote about the terrible, 40-year stagnation of real wage growth in the US, pointing out that in that period real wages in 1982-1984 constant dollars have risen only 4.5%. But, as we have seen, health care spending did not follow that trajectory. This has resulted in tremendous hardship for families as they have tried to keep pace with rising health care costs. For, just as US health care spending has risen dramatically since 1980, so has what families have to pay for it.
To put this in perspective, consider this. Since 1999 the US CPI has risen 54%, but, as the chart above shows, the cost of an employer offered family plan has risen 338%. If a family’s health care plan’s cost growth had been inflation-based, the total cost to employer and employee would be $8,898 in 2018, not $19,616. In 2018, the average family in an employer-based plan pays 30% of the plan’s cost ($6,850), plus a $2,000 deductible, plus co-pays that average $20 whenever health care is accessed, plus varying levels of co-pays for drugs.
On top of all that is the enormous difficulty people have in trying to navigate the dizzying health care system (if you can call it that). American health care is a dense forest of bewildering complexity, a many-headed Hydra that would make Hesiod proud, a labyrinthine geography in which even Theseus with his ball of string would find himself lost.
With wages and health care costs growing ever farther apart, America has a crisis of epic proportion. Yet all we can seem to do is shout at each other about it. When do you think that will end? When will we begin to answer the question that this post began with: What does a nation owe its citizens with respect to health care? When will our nation’s leaders realize we can actually learn from countries like Australia, the UK, Switzerland and all the other high performing, low cost members of the OECD? Continuing on the present course is no longer a viable option.
Note: You may be questioning The Commonwealth Fund’s research. To put your mind at ease about that, here are the study sources:
Our data come from a variety of sources. One is comparative survey research. Since 1998, The Commonwealth Fund, in collaboration with international partners, has supported surveys of patients and primary care physicians in advanced countries, collecting information for a standardized set of metrics on health system performance. Other comparative data are drawn from the most recent reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and the World Health Organization (WHO).