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Monday, March 13, 2017


Health Care: Dollars and sense

by Tom Sullivan

NC chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program march at HKonJ 2015.

Show of hands, allies: How many you would trade your country's national health care systems for our "greatest health care system in the world"? Nobody?

Can't imagine why. Neither can Katie Lee. The third-year medical student in Appalachia is a member of Students for a National Health Program, the student arm of Physicians for a National Health Program. She writes of the proposed Affordable Care Act replacement unveiled last week:
The Republican alternative presented this week is also woefully inadequate in terms of coverage. Instead, we should pursue the most equitable and just option – a single payer healthcare system. No, this is not “socialized medicine,” which would mean both the financing and delivery of care are government funded. We already have a form of this system for our veterans, and it leaves much to be desired. What I, and 20,000 other medical students and physicians, propose is a Medicare for All system.


The United States remains the only developed country with a system based on for-profit insurance companies. We are spending the largest amount per capita ($8,000+) on healthcare expenditures of any nation in the world, but without the best outcomes. The leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical bills, and an estimated 45,000 deaths annually can be attributed to lack of health insurance. Over 100 million Americans forgo professionally recommended medical care due to cost each year. Clearly, we have work to do. A single payer system by way of a Medicare for All structure would allow coverage for all Americans and would actually reduce spending.
Obamacare made medical care available to millions who had none, including Americans living in Appalachia. But it has the flaws one would expect from a system produced by a tortuous compromise between consumers and for-profit health care providers and insurers. Lee is not the only medical student to see its warts:
Most of the 200 medical students who gathered at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine building for the sixth annual summit of Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP) said they think Obamacare is inadequate because it leaves an estimated 26 million Americans without health insurance. As for Trumpcare, or AHCA, the students hated the Republican Party-backed bill and called it “unethical,” “extremely detrimental,” and "a step in the wrong direction."

So, what’s the cure for America’s health-care woes? The answer is a single-payer system, members of SNaHP repeated in speeches, breakout sessions, and interviews during the daylong gathering.
James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute writes at The Week that the botched rollout of the Republican alternative may result in pushing the country towards "Medicare for All," the plan we might be looking at had Bernie Sanders actually won the presidency:
... and it's an answer that many Democrats wanted all along. Indeed, one way Obama sold Democrats on health reform that kept for-profit, private insurance central was by suggesting it was merely a way station to single payer. That idea is probably looking better and better to Democrats right about now, especially as the party continues to drift left. And maybe to the Republican president, too.

Don't forget that Trump is a single-payer fan from way back. Plan beats no plan, and Republicans have so far been unable to cobble together an economically sound, politically acceptable ObamaCare alternative. The rollout of the AHCA inspires little confidence they ever will.
With all the energy Republicans spent maligning Obamacare since 2009, they might have powered a small city. Or they might instead have designed actual improvements to Obamacare. Or even a single-payer system modeled after cheaper systems in place in other countries, which is where we may end up eventually anyway. But that would make too much sense.