Why I Support Single-Payor Health Care
As a medical anthropologist and college professor, I study health care systems around the world, and a single payer system (some countries have additional private sector options) is the only system that can assure a baseline of adequate care for all of its citizens. We have that system in Medicare, and we need to expand its effectiveness to the entire US population. There is such unbelievable waste and greed in the present hodge-podge "payor" system! Just the savings alone of eliminating these "continuous denial methods" would provide a baseline of care for everyone, and do so with a seamless network of electronic medical records -- something that is vastly needed to update and optimize medical access and care.
Please wake up, America. You're in a trance. You've believed the hogwash about "socialized" medicine being an evil that will eradicate your choices. There is still choice under Medicare. In fact, there are better choices with 30% savings. The US ranks among the lowest in industrialized nations in life expectancy and infant mortality. We can't keep doing the same thing, expecting different results. Our nation's greatness was founded on a strong middle class, educated and empowered through efficient public systems.
A society that does not take care of its children, its infirm and its elderly is earmarked for collapse. We have all those traits right now in the US, as we embark upon greed-ridden, militaristic, and short-sighted solutions for everything. I just watched the HBO series "John Adams." We were made of stronger stuff! A democracy of achievement and a spirit of equality, access, legitimacy and citizen empowerment was embued into our founding principles.
There is an essential truth I learned from Japan and Sweden's health care systems, among the best in the world. What's good for the common person is good for the whole. More than ever, we need a spirit of solidarity to solve the massive problems we are struggling with today. There is always a consistent trail in the collapse of societies: first, senseless pre-emptive strikes put your resources and standing at risk. Then education is short-changed. Then health and well-being of citizens are endangered. Then the economic state erodes.
Watch the news lately? WE ARE IN THE MIDST of this collapse.
But I believe we still have the resilience and intelligence to turn it around. Let's start by offering to make each other well.
TWO BILLS TO SUPPORT:
SB 840 (Kuehl), the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, (CHIRA), would provide a single standard of quality health care to all Californians on a fiscally sound, affordable basis, and enables every Californian the right to choose his or her own physician, as it controls health cost inflation.
Reliable Coverage: Eligibility is based on residency, instead of on employment or income. Under CHIRA, all residents are covered. No California resident will ever again lose his or her health insurance because of unaffordable insurance premiums, or because he or she changes or loses a job, or goes to or graduates from college or has a pre-existing medical condition.
Affordable: The plan involves NO NEW SPENDING on health care. The system will be paid for by federal, state and county monies already being spent on health care and by affordable insurance premiums that replace all premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket payments and co-pays now paid by employers and consumers.
Efficient: CHIRA eliminates waste by consolidating the functions of many insurance companies into one comprehensive insurance plan, saving the state and consumers billions of dollars each year. Currently it’s estimated that half of every dollar spent on health care is squandered on clinical and administrative waste, insurance company profits, and overpriced pharmaceuticals. CHIRA is based on a model that has been estimated to save California about $20 billion through reduced administrative costs in the first year alone. Under CHIRA, California will use its huge purchasing power to buy prescription drugs and durable medical equipment in bulk. CHIRA is the sole health reform that enables California to use its full purchasing power to negotiate the deepest savings. It has been estimated that this model of systemwide bulk purchasing could save California $5.2 billion in the first year. Most importantly, CHIRA will make our health care system more reliable and secure by stabilizing the growth in health spending; linking spending increases to state GDP and population growth, employment rates and other relevant demographic indicators. CHIRA will combine needed cost controls with medical standards that use the best available medical science, and place an emphasis on preventative and primary care to improve California’s overall health in a way that also saves billions of dollars.
High Quality: Under CHIRA, consumers have total freedom to choose their personal primary care provider. Health care providers and facilities will receive fair reimbursement for all covered services they provide. CHIRA utilizes proven financial incentives that support the delivery of high quality care, including bonuses for providers working in rural or under-served areas. The plan invests in needed health care infrastructure such as electronic claims and reimbursement systems and statewide medical databases that improve health care quality. Benefits: Coverage includes all care prescribed by a patient's health care provider that meets accepted standards of care and practice. Specifically, coverage includes hospital, medical, surgical, and mental health; dental and vision care; prescription drugs and medical equipment, such as hearing aids; emergency care including ambulance; skilled nursing care after hospitalization; substance abuse recovery programs; health education and translation services, including services for those with hearing and vision impairments; transportation needed to access covered services, diagnostic testing; and hospice care. CHIRA offers California a broad and clear vision for a remodeled health care system that will provide high quality, affordable and reliable health care for all residents.
FOR THE U.S.
* HR 676 (CONYERS) establishes an American-styled national health insurance program. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that all Americans, guaranteed by law, will have access to the highest quality and cost effective health care services regardless of ones employment, income, or health care status.
* With over 45-75 million uninsured Americans, and another 50 million who are under insured, it is time to change our inefficient and costly fragmented health care system.
* Physicians For A National Health Program reports that under a Medicare For All plan, we could save over $286 billion dollars a year in total health care costs.
* We would move away from our present system where annual family premiums have increased upwards to $9,068 this year.
* Under HR 676, a family of three making $40,000 per year would spend approximately $1600 per year for health care coverage.
* Medicare for All would allow the United States to reduce its almost $2 trillion health care expenditure per year while covering all of the uninsured and everybody else for more than they are getting under their current health care plans.
* In 2005, without reform, the average employer who offers coverage will contribute $2,600 to health care per employee (for much skimpier benefits).
Under HR 676, the average costs to employers for an employee making $30,000 per year will be reduced to $1,155 per year; less than $100 per month.
Who is Eligible!
Every person living in the United States and the U.S. Territories would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and identification number once they enroll at the appropriate location. Social Security numbers may not be used when assigning identification. cards. No co-pays or deductibles are permissible under this act.
Health Care Services Covered!
This program will cover all medically-necessary services, including primary care, inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, long term care, mental health services, dentistry, eye care, chiropractic, and substance abuse treatment. Patients have their choice of physicians, providers, hospitals, clinics, and practices. Medicare will be improved and everybody will get it.
Sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
Eighty-two percent of Americans think the U.S. healthcare system should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt (Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 7, 2008). America's nurses know that only single-payer, improved and expanded Medicare for all will fix our broken system and the tragedy of our devastated families. HR 676, by U.S. Rep John Conyers, is the most comprehensive, cost effective way to achieve guaranteed healthcare for all. Read prior stories in this series.