Sep 14, 2019
Our current healthcare “system” is overpriced, underperforming and inequitable. As health professionals in Sonoma County, we believe that bold, meaningful changes are desperately needed.
We pay twice as much for healthcare as people in just about any country in the world. Yet U.S. residents are younger, use fewer prescription drugs, and go to the doctor and are hospitalized less often than those in comparable countries. Care is rationed based on ability to pay, rather than on need.
Do we get good value? Reliable measures of quality show that 33 countries have better quality of care than we do. Their care is more efficient, less error-prone, and removes cost as a barrier to care. Americans have a lower life expectancy, double the rate of maternal mortality, and the highest infant mortality.
Why are costs so high and the quality so low? Corporations extract billions of dollars a year in profits, and redirect resources to fund administrators, rather than care. This adds tremendously to the costs of care, and up more than a quarter of hospital budgets, compared to 12% in Canada’s single-payer system.
Last year, 66.1 million American workers separated from their jobs, losing their job-based insurance. We all deserve lifelong, seamless coverage, ending the disruptive churn of job-based plans.
The solution to our health care crisis is right under our noses! Medicare — now 54 years old — is popular, efficient, and proven to improve health outcomes for seniors. But before we expand Medicare to all U.S. residents, we must improve Medicare for seniors by covering all medically necessary services, including those not currently covered, such as vision, hearing, dental, mental health, and long-term care. We must also eliminate the financial burden of premiums, deductibles, and copays, so nobody ever has to choose between paying their bills and going to the doctor, making medical bankruptcy a thing of the past.
Medicare for All would slash administrative costs by funding hospitals through global budgets, similar to the way that we fund fire and police departments. Instead of having to bill hundreds of different insurers for every aspirin, bandage, or saline bag, hospitals would be guaranteed a stable level of funding to meet community health needs.
The Medicare for All Act of 2019 (H.R. 1384), with 106 original congressional co-sponsors, offers a viable way for us as a country to address issues of cost, quality, efficiency and equity. Unlike our current system, we will be free to use the medical provider and hospital of our choice.
How would we pay for it? We currently pay, directly or indirectly, $1,000 per person per month into health care. By expanding Medicare benefits and incorporating all persons in the U.S., regardless of immigration status, into Medicare, we expect to save trillions of dollars in the first decade alone, remove much of the profit from the system, and improve access, quality, equity and efficiency. No longer would employers or individuals pay insurance premiums. Like police and fire services, schools and libraries, our care would be funded by taxes- taxes that would be much lower for most individuals, families and businesses than the premiums currently paid. Municipalities and school districts would no longer be required to pay for employee and retiree health insurance. Those billions of dollars could be redirected to fund city services and re-invigorate our schools.
Half-measures like a public option would be much less able to provide the fundamental changes we all deserve. A public option would not provide healthcare for all, would not address the increasing premiums, deductibles, medical bankruptcy or other financial barriers to care. “Improved” Medicare for All is the best and really only way to make the changes we terribly need in our healthcare system.
Submitted by the members of HPEACE (Health Professionals for Equality and Community Empowerment,) an organization of more than 200 Sonoma County health professionals.
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