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Quinn: We Can Afford Universal Health Care

I read this article while waiting in the oncologists waiting room today....I can not think of a better article that explains why this is the perfect way to go for America.  I don't care who the candidate is this year, health care has to be a priority.  The uninsured, especially those with cancer, face a death sentence because outside of emergency room care, nobody wants them. --Alan

Quinn: We Can Afford Universal Health Care
By Jane Bryant Quinn
July 30, 2007 issue - Prepare to be terrorized, shocked, scared out of your wits. No, not by jihadists or Dementors (you do read "Harry Potter," right?), but by the evil threat of ... universal health insurance! The more the presidential candidates talk it up, the wilder the warnings against it. Cover everyone? Wreck America? Do you know what care would cost?

But the public knows the American health-care system is breaking up, no matter how much its backers cheer. For starters, there's the 46 million uninsured (projected to rise to 56 million in five years). There's the shock of the underinsured when they learn that their policies exclude a costly procedure they need—forcing them to run up an unpayable bill, beg for charity care or go without. And think of the millions who plan their lives around health insurance—where to work, whether to start a business, when to retire, even whom to marry (there are "benefits" marriages, just as there are "green card" marriages). It shocks the conscience that those who profit from this mess tell us to suck it up.

I do agree that we can't afford to cover everyone under the crazy health-care system we have now. We can't even afford all the people we're covering already, which is why we keep booting them out. But we have an excellent template for universal care right under our noses: good old American Medicare. When you think of reform, think "Medicare for all."

Medicare is what's known as a single-payer system. In the U.S. version, the government pays for health care delivered in the private sector. There's one set of comprehensive benefits, with premiums, co-pays and streamlined paperwork. You can buy private coverage for the extra costs.

Health insurers hate this model, which would end their gravy train. So they're trying to tar single-payer as a kind of medical Voldemort, ready to destroy. Here are some of their canards, and my replies:

Universal coverage costs too much. No—what costs too much is the system we have now. In 2005, the United States spent 15.3 percent of gross domestic product on health care for only some of us. France spent 10.7 percent and covered everyone. The French comparison is good because its system works very much like Medicare-for-all. The other European countries, all with universal coverage, spent less than France.

Why are U.S. costs off the charts? Partly because we don't bargain with providers for a universal price. Partly because of the money that health insurers spend on marketing and screening people in or out. Medicare's overhead is just 1.5 percent, compared with 13 to 16 percent in the private sector. John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a health-care consultant, says that the health insurers' overhead came to $120 billion last year, of which $40 billion was profit. By comparison, it would cost $54 billion to cover all the uninsured.

Eeeek, your taxes would go up! Maybe not, if Sheils is right. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have testified that the United States could insure everyone for the money we're spending now. But even if taxes did rise, you might still come out ahead. That's because your Medicare plan would probably cost less than the medical bills and premiums you're paying now.

We get world-class care; don't tamper with it. On average, we don't. International surveys put France in first place. On almost all measures of health care and mortality, we lag behind Canada and Europe. Many individuals do indeed get superior care, but so do people in single-payer countries, and at lower cost.

They have long waiting times. No advanced country has waiting periods for emergency surgery or procedures that are urgently needed. The United States has shorter waits than Canada and England for elective surgery. Still, queues are developing here, at the doctor's door. In a study of five developed countries, the Commonwealth Fund looked at how many sick adults had to wait six days or more for an appointment. By this measure, only Canada's record was worse than ours. But waits depend on how well a system is funded, not with the fact that it's single-payer. Many countries that cover everyone, including France, Belgium, Germany and Japan, report no issue with waits at all.

There's no problem; people get care even if they're uninsured. They don't. They get emergency treatment but little else. As a group, the uninsured are sicker, suffer more from chronic disease and rarely get rehabilitation after an injury or surgery. They also die sooner—knowing that, with insurance, they might have lived.

Right now, Congress is trying to bring 3.3 million uninsured children into the State Children's Health Insurance Program. President George W. Bush says he'll veto the expansion as "the wrong path for our nation." He objects to "government-run health care" (like Medicare?) and says that SCHIP "deprives Americans of ... choice" (like the choice to go uninsured?). Buzzwords like "government run" are supposed to summon up monsters like "socialized medicine" that apparently still lurk under our beds. If these terror tactics work, prepare for another 46 million uninsured.

Reporter Associate: Temma Ehrenfeld

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19886686/site/newsweek/page/0/
3 Responses
158061 tn?1202678326
I Alan, I read that article, it is too true.  We have to do something about health care in the US so we move up from 37th in the world.  I am fortunate to have good health insurance, however I do keep working to make sure I keep it.  
167426 tn?1254086235
I am on medicare, there is so much fraud in the use of it, that the government asks us to verify all billings to try and eliminate the over charges by hospitals and doctors.  To structure a "cover all" plan to eliminate the fraud, and provide the care we all deserve would take years of planning and  would be fought by the Insurance companies, hospitals and medical practitioneers. For the politicians to talk universal Health care without a plan is simply ridiculous.   I do not want to see our government in charge of my health care,  put the whole thing up for bids and let one solid, honest corporation plan and run it.  Let the Insurance companies do the supplimenatal  insurance,  put the medical field on notice that  a fair cost plan will be issued for all procedures,  cut out the hospital waste, , I was charged { medicare was}  $5.00 per tylenol on my last visit there.  Why should 1 iinfusion of anti nausea medication cost $6.000.  What makes any surgeon worth $80,000. for a debalking.  If I were to have the same thing now as Leslee does,  I would not be treated as she is, Medicare pays 80% and I am responsible for the rest.  I am not against UHC, but I would want a good, sound, honest program, and our government is not good at that .  Marie:   I had excellent health insurance also as long as I worked, I worked till I was 70  {as long as they would let me}  going on Medicare is a shock to the system.  Cancer is making pharmaceutical, doctors and hospitals very rich,  I wonder many times now if they really want a cure.  When there is a bill before congress , by the FDA, to ban all suppliments, that tells me a lot.  I am an old lady, but I follow Congress closely and I do not trust them as a whole.  When SS was started it was supposed to help the elderly, but our congress uses it as a slush fund for pork barrel projects and then have the gall to talk about it going broke.  I could go on and on about my distrust of our government  but it just raises my BP.  One incidence I will tell you about, I have a son with Downs Syndrome, every 7 years SS  orders a complete exam of him to see if he is still a Downs, the last one cost $500.  I complained in writing to them years ago, but they say it is THE RULE.  Sure wish he could outgrow it  but he won't.
Avatar universal
I'd rather Government take over.  Most of my family lives in the 'national 'health care countries (UK, Canada, Australia) and were constantly amazed how our system worked when I talked to them about my mom...more like shocked and confused.  I had to explain this is the standard of care in this country.  

I have little faith in honest corporations...I have too much experience especially with one large one that everyone thinks is the 'best' and 'saves them money' (guess how) who actually have a secret corporate policy that will raise prices when they run out the competition.   They will not be able to do it on the level.  Without Government oversight, it will go the same way as the privatization of social security...no thank you.  We put our faith in 'honest corporations' during the turn of the last century and dealt with child labor, no benefits, worker abuse, monopolies, and more.  Until our Government regulated heavily the Corporations ran the show more than they do now.

I agree with your points and with a good health coverage in America, the Govt. can force their leverage (that is what is done in most UHC countries...they don't pay these crazy amounts...that is why doctors hate it because their gravy train would be at an end).  These plans would not stop any supplemental plans, HMO's etc you could join...so, in essence, free market plans are still welcome to offer additional benefits either for free or additional cost.  The difference is everyone would be covered.  If your company wanted to offer you private health care, sure, nobody is against that...it all remains...yet what would more likely happen is health plans would modify and create their own plans (such as the medicare advantage or pps plans, etc.) which would give you the additional featurs of your current plan (for instance).

The problem is that there will be political fighting.  We could have the best UHC plan in the world....the BEST.  There would be control, there would be excellent benefits, etc.  There is no reason it cannot exist.  In-fact, Medicare is one of the most efficently run Government health plans in the world....the world.  Heck, they even have studies to prove it.  While we can find things to complain about virtually anything...our Government did an OK job in the face of opposition to such a program (and continued attacks).

All I can say is the uninsured are treated horribly and I can speak from experience.  Without insurance, cancer patients for instance, receive little to no care outside of emergency or hospital care.  Nobody will see them.  For Medicaid and such...that is a horrible system that requires almost complete poverty which is impossible to maintain with cancer treatments (we all know how much co-pays are on the anti-nausea meds for instance).

Either way we must go to UHC in some fashion (in-fact a poll in Cure magazine shows over half of Americans say we must do this) or we will face serious issues (for instance, bio-weapon attacks from terrorists would magnify into a major anhilation of Americans because they do not seek medical care during initial symptoms due to cost...oh yes, this is what will happen in this way...mark my words...unfortunatley).
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