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A strong case made for Medicare for All

By Brad Lowell
Concordia Blade-Empire

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both favor Medicare for All. As a financially struggling owner of a small business who provides health care insurance, I for one have always hoped that someday American politicians would wake up and pass a similar measure, making healthcare a right rather than a privilege.

Recently, a friend who is a physician, sent me an article from The Hill, an online media publication,
which makes a strong case for a single-payer public health insurance system. The author of the article
Diane Archer, a senior adviser at Social Security Works, states that Christopher Cai and colleagues at three University of California campuses found that everyone of 22 studies they reviewed on the projected cost impact of a single-payer insurance system would yield a net savings.

Alarmingly, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development, the United States spent $10,206 per capita on healthcare in 2017. In second place was Switzerland, spending 28 percent less than the U.S.

In third place was Germany, spending only $5,728 or nearly 50 percent less than the U.S. Sweden paid $5,511 per capita, while Austria paid $5,440. Our neighbors to the north only paid $4,826.

And get this--there are 27.5 million Americans without healthcare insurance and another 44 million are underinsured. A tragedy for so many who will go without proper care.

One of the main reasons given in the article for lower costs of a Medicare for All system is that there would be an estimated $812 billion dollar savings that the U.S. now spends on health care administration costs.

According to the article, the reason for the high administrative costs is that the thousands of insurance companies individually negotiate benefit rules and rates with thousands of hospitals and doctors. “On top of that, they rely on different billing procedures – and this puts a costly burden on providers.”

Another recent article by Elisabeth Rosenthal, a former New York Times correspondent who currently is the editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News, is about the phenomenon of “surprise” bills inherent in today's American healthcare system.

According to Ms. Rosenthal the scope and scale of surprise bills has grown in the past five years.
She writes that in cities today, hospitals, doctors and insurers are often in a three-way competition.

“Doctors began to form their their own companies and build their own outpatient surgery centers to capture payments themselves,” Ms. Rosenthal writes. “Hospitals added facility fees and infusion charges, while insurance companies levied ever increasing co-payments and deductibles.”

Ms. Rosenthal maintains that these surprise bills are the latest tactic which has been growing in the past five years. Surprise bills come when a service is provided from out-of-network providers such as an ambulance delivers you to an out-of-network hospital or you are scheduled for a minor procedure such as a colonoscopy and billed for an out-of-network anesthesiologist and pathologist who participated, Ms. Rosenthal writes.

In an article in The Fiscal Times, Michael Rainey writes that one in five patients get surprise bills
for out-of-network charges averaging $2,011.

Another shocking story written by Melanie Evans of the Wall Street Journal says that the Gundersen Healthcare System of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, did an a18-month study of the cost of knee replacement surgery. The study found that the actual cost of the procedure was only $10,550 including payments to doctors.

Evans reported that the hospital had been charging $50,000, well above the national average of $34,000. The hospital immediately reduced its price by 18 percent.

And last but not least, there is so much variation in healthcare costs from city to city. Jeff Lagasse, associate editor of HealthcareFinance, quotes in a story about costs varying from location to location found that the charges for a common blood test are only $18 in Toledo, while in Beaumont, Texas the same test costs $443.

As one can see, healthcare costs are all over the lot for varying reasons. Sadly, I doubt that the situation will be rectified in my lifetime.

Concordia Blade-Empire

510 Washington St.
Concordia, KS 66901