Tag Archives: universal healthcare

Healthcare Must Include Everybody

A sure-fire way to lower the cost of health insurance for those willing and able to buy it is to let people die on the curb in front of the hospital. Yep, give up your humanity and you too can save on health insurance. When the motive for healthcare is profit and there is no profit in free riders, what else?

If you opt for humanity and take that person into the hospital, it can cost you, and likely cost you a lot. That person without health insurance will incur costs that the hospital must absorb. The only way for a hospital to stay in business if they accept indigent care is to charge paying customers, usually insurers, more to offset the unreimbursed care.

If we are to be humane and provide care for the free riders, is there a better way? If we wait for high blood pressure to cause a heart attack, treatment of that one event can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Alternatively, drugs to manage high blood pressure can be had for pennies a day. To not provide for the blood pressure medication is just the sort of thing that Ben Franklin spoke of when he said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The reason President Trump and the Republicans struggle to produce a health plan to replace the ACA, even though they have had several years now, is there is no plan that actually works if it doesn’t include everybody, at least humanly. There are two ways to do that – make sure everybody has access to affordable care through private insurers or go to a less costly single-payer, not for profit, universal healthcare system like just about every other country in the world.

Government managed systems work and work well. We currently spend much more per capita on healthcare with poorer outcomes. There are over 40 countries with lower infant mortality rates, greater life expectancies, and lower costs.

President Trump said his replacement healthcare plan would cover everybody and cost less. So where is it? I can predict immediately that any plan from the Republican party will not mandate coverage with a complete, effective policy. This guarantees free riders and uncompensated costs. Another promise is to lower spending by the elimination of subsidies for the poor. It will lower or eliminate healthcare for the poor.

For those middle-income folks there are now cheaper insurance policies available, but only because of substandard policies. Lower costs mean less coverage. The ACA policies required a minimum standard of coverage which included preventive care. Cheap policies are available which allow you to pick your coverage limit – lower coverages mean lower policy costs. This however, can leave the taxpayer on the hook for catastrophic costs.

The real winners with a conservative healthcare plan are the rich, no surprise there. Taxes will go down while at the same time subsides not previously available to the rich will go up.

Conservatives continue to try to view healthcare as subject to the same market forces as buying unessential commodities, but it just doesn’t work that way. We are alone in the world with our failure to make that recognition. In these times of a debilitating even lethal pandemic, it is unconscionable to not provide quality healthcare to everyone in the country.

Dr. Bob Allen is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Arkansas Tech University.

Medicare for All

It shouldn’t be this hard, really. Just about every country in the developed world has some form of universal healthcare, managed by a central authority. Management varies, the degree of supplemental private insurance varies, and the degree of coverage varies, but one factor is common to all the others: it works. Everybody gets coverage, outcomes are better, and the total cost is lower.

The arguments against universal healthcare here in the United States are numerous and generally are all wrong. One of the sillier arguments is that you can’t compare the success in smaller countries with our more populous country. Nonsense, anyone that knows about healthcare coverage knows that the larger the insured pool, the more predictable the costs, and hence the lower the costs.

The most common argument is we just can’t afford it. Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and occasional wannabe presidential candidate proclaimed that “Medicare for all would bankrupt us for a very long time.” Nonsense, it’s not bankrupting European or Asian countries, why should it bankrupt us?

As a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP,) We have, hands down, the most expensive system in the world. For example most European Countries, Canada, Japan, and Australia all have costs in the 10 to 12 percent range, where we spend over 17 %. And they cover everybody, we don’t.

Another argument is that the coverage “there” is not as good as here. It depends on what metric but if you compare the broadest of categories we lose every time. In life expectancy, we don’t even break the top 25. We are far behind the likes of Greece and Canada. How about infant mortality, surely we take care of our neonates. Not nearly as well as most of the others. Our infant mortality rate is twice or more than the rate of Europe. Our rate is even higher than Cuba’s! Maternal mortality rates are even worse. We have on the order of 7 times as many women dying compared to Finland, and about 3 times as many as the average of the rest of the developed world.

Some claim they don’t want some faceless bureaucrat determining their healthcare, but what is the alternative? As a comparison, where do you think the interests lie for an investor in a for-profit insurance company? Why did it take government intervention to ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions?

We can pay for it through our income taxes. Any increase in taxes will be offset by decreases in the need for private insurance. To ease the transition we can introduce it starting with the most important, childbirth. Prenatal/maternal care should be THE pro-life issue, then the children are kept in the system as they age.

At the other end of the system, we should lower the age for the introduction of Medicare. Currently, most healthcare insurance is provided through the workplace. In the gig economy, lose your job – lose your insurance. It is more difficult and takes more time for quinqua- or sexa- genarians to find a job.

A final argument to debunk is that our government just can’t do the job. Nonsense, our government is as good as or better than that of France, or Great Britain or Germany, right? As the most prosperous democracy, we can do this.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.