For most of us, getting healthcare in this country is way too hard, as the video at the end shows. So to those in Congress who would make it even harder, I say, “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” with a single-payer healthcare system for All Americans.
TOP REASONS FOR SINGLE PAYER
Isn’t single-payer just another way to pay for care with nothing to improve care delivery or reduce the need? This question is why I say, Medicare-for-All is Not Enough, although it sets the stage for effective reform.
EFFICIENCY – Medicare administrative overhead is extremely low, at 2% versus >20% for private insurers. Medicare also has no profit motive, shareholders to satisfy, or exorbitant executive salaries to pay. Compare that to an insurance industry that profits from higher premiums as healthcare costs go up. They have a financial incentive to deny coverage but not to contain overall healthcare costs. Reducing the number of payers can reduce administrative waste, and strengthen bargaining power and public oversight of public health benefits.
COVERAGE – With a nationwide insurance pool for basic health care, everybody is in and nobody’s out. Such a system can replace welfare programs like Medicaid and CHIP. Basic health care would be universal, even for members of Congress; but just like Medicare today, people could still buy supplemental insurance for expanded coverage.
PREVENTION – Wellness programs have been popular in employer-funded health insurance plans, but insurers can’t justify investing in such programs when people change jobs or insurance providers frequently. That’s not an issue with Medicare, so the incentive is to improve focus on wellness, prevention, and worker productivity.
SIMPLICITY – Yes, a single-payer system complies with the KISS principle – it’s simpler. You can choose your physician and not be limited to your payer’s network. And common sense budgeting can offer fair reimbursements applied equally.
WHERE’S THE VISION?
I responded to an article in The Guardian that critiques Democrats’ healthcare arguments, and another article in The New York Times that criticizes Republicans. The NY Times article describes a structural flaw in modern capitalism, where tremendous income gains have gone to those at the very top while prospects have diminished for those in the middle or bottom.
Both polarized political parties seem to lack a clear vision for America, and without a strong vision, Republicans have been separating themselves from traditional conservative policy. Even the term “compassionate conservatism” has vanished. I voted for Bush, but without compassion and goals I can believe in, I can no longer call myself a Republican.
As a consumer advocate working to Help Others, rather than Help Myself, I must oppose policies that seem to be, “for us to win, you must lose.” That mean selfishness is why I now call myself a Progressive. It’s why I founded Modern Health Talk five years ago, why I voted for Obama, why I supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and why I still advocate long-term for a single-payer universal healthcare system like Medicare-for-All. It’s also why I endorse a public option as a path toward that objective.
Unlike modern Republicans (and many Democrats), I have a vision for America where government and citizens cooperate in a functioning society and share both responsibility and benefits. We collectively invest in public education, public defense & safety, public infrastructure, public utilities, and a skilled, healthy and productive workforce to drive innovation, profit, and GDP. You see, like Republicans, I value capitalism, but I also see benefits in public-sector organizations and initiatives. And I know that no individual or company “makes it” on their own. With that in mind, one of my first articles here described a hybrid public/private healthcare system that recommended blending the best of socialism and capitalism.
MY ADVICE FOR DEMOCRATS
I like most of the populist message of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but I worry that they both are too far to the left and may scare away moderates. I’m not sure they share my vision for America, because their rhetoric seems to blame wealthy corporations and individuals, and capitalism, and their plans seem intent on punishing with high taxes and strong regulation.
Sure, Progressive policies and tax reforms are needed, but the Democrat’s message needs to be simpler, gentler and more inclusive. Make the case that we as a nation must share both the responsibility and benefits, and invest strategically – i.e. work together.
As for healthcare, quit complaining about Republican efforts to repeal & replace Obamacare, because that’s what they campaigned on, and your arguments are landing on deaf ears. And quit trying to save Obamacare as it stands, because it does have flaws, and Republicans know how to break it. Take the high road and the initiative by reaching across the aisle with a better plan – a plan that has broader objectives that both sides can support, like saving over $1.5 trillion each and every year in overall healthcare costs, while also improving outcomes and developing that skilled, healthy, and productive workforce.
MY ADVICE FOR REPUBLICANS
Republicans had 7 years to step back, ask the right questions, and work stakeholders to craft a workable Obamacare replacement, but they didn’t do so. They could claim victory and satisfy campaign promises by replacing the Affordable Care Act with a system like Medicare-for-All. Just don’t call it Single Payer or Socialize Medicine, because polling shows that how you call it determines whether it’s viewed positively or as a negative.
Medicare-for-All could gain support among Republicans if their politicians avoid lies, misleading claims, and rhetorical “slight of hand,” like they did when calling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare.” Make it clear that, as a government-run health “insurance” program for the elderly, Medicare is only about how care is paid for, not how it’s delivered. As for efficiency, this government insurance program is proven to be more efficient than private insurance for several reasons.
- Medicare Has Controlled Costs Better than Private Insurance;
- Medicare Has Lower Administrative Costs;
- Medicare is Publicly Accountable while Private Plans are Not; and
- Medicare has No Profit Motive.
I find it ironic that Republicans still claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility but still have failed so poorly to see the immense savings potential of a single payer (oops, I mean Medicare-for-All) system. There’s still time to change course, knowing that their own hastily & secretly prepared plan is opposed by over 80% of the nation.
As the latest Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare stalls in the Senate, Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Robert Reich argue that basic healthcare should be a right and guaranteed for all Americans. They too support a Medicare-for-All system, so it should be easy to reach across the aisle and get their help.
OUR IMMENSE HEALTHCARE SAVINGS POTENTIAL
The U.S. now spends over $3.3 trillion/year on healthcare – in total, including insurance premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and government subsidies. That’s more than 17% of GDP, and it’s going up with 11,000 people turning age 65 every day and needing more care in old age.
The big savings potential is because our total spending is twice as much as what the other advanced nations pay, yet we still live sicker and die younger. Those other nations also struggle to constrain rising costs, but they have simpler and more-efficient single-payer systems that make coping with aging populations easier. Their incentives better align with goals.
To reach the savings potential, politicians must go beyond universal healthcare, because Medicare-for-All is not enough. It’s just another way of paying for health care. Although it’s far more efficient than any private health insurance, it doesn’t reduce the need for care in the first place. For that we need to focus on health, wellness and prevention, because as Benjamin Franklin said 250 years ago, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
To better understand what can be done to save our broken healthcare system, I encourage you to watch Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. This documentary film examines powerful forces that maintain the status quo in a medical industry that’s quick to fix, not prevent, and to profit, not care for.
TECH INNOVATION WILL ACCELERATE PROGRESS IN CARE DELIVERY
“Moore’s Law and the FUTURE of Health Care” is an article I wrote from the perspective of a retired IBM technologist and futurist. It looks at the convergence of information science (processors & networks), biology (chemistry, genes & proteins), cognitive & neuroscience (neuron signaling), and nano technology.
SPECIAL INTEREST LOBBYING WILL SLOW PROGRESS
While I’m guardedly optimistic that tech innovation will greatly improve care delivery, I worry about misaligned incentives that promote profit from disease management rather than health & wellness, and about special interest lobbying. In his TIME Magazine report, “Bitter Pill: Why High Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” Stephen Brill describes the Medical Industrial Complex, which spends 3-times as much on lobbying as the military industrial complex. They obviously don’t want to lose $1.5 trillion/year in revenue and will oppose any of the reforms I suggest. Unfortunately, Brill’s article is now behind a subscriber pay-wall, but I posted a summary and a video interview with the author.
SOCIALIZED MEDICINE DOESN’T DESERVE A BAD REPUTATION
In this satirical video, American mountain man Gus Porter gets mauled by a bear, but he won’t let the socialist Canadian health care fix him up. He’d rather hike back to America because of his misguided ideology, which eventually costs him his life.
IF AIR TRAVEL WORKED LIKE HEALTH CARE
This satirical video makes fun of our overly complex healthcare industry, looking at what the airline industry might be like if it worked the same way.