One of the biggest wasteful holes into which Americans pour millions of dollars is the quest for adequate medical care. It has been estimated by a high-ranking federal official that Americans could triple the amount they pay for medical services and not increase our gross national product 1%. Collectively, the medical profession continues to claim we have the finest medical care in the world, which is clearly not true. Study after study ranks the United States no better than ninth in the world as to medical care for all of our citizens. More than 42,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes. The average American spends almost twice as much on healthcare as citizens of other industrialized countries.
In general, Republicans and conservatives continue to bash and call for the total repeal of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). However, none of them seems to be able, or want, to offer an alternative which would provide the American people with access to decent health care. People like Senator Ted Cruz offer a supposed solution which is outright goofy. He wants to create a tax-free medical savings plan which would allow families to place money in the bank to save for future medical care; they would not be taxed on that income. Senator Cruz does not seem to understand that people, many of whom are in dire need of medical care, have no extra income to put in the bank. They are spending every penny they make for food, shelter and clothing.
A business writer for the Houston Chronicle in Sunday’s edition offered what seems to me to be a reasonable answer for this dilemma. Mr. Tomlinson proposes Medicare for everyone; all American citizens. Currently, Medicare is being provided at a cheaper rate than most medical care provided by insurance carriers. According to the Chronicle, insurance carriers spend more than 15% of every dollar on overhead and profit.
Mr. Tomlinson correctly points out that medical care provided by private insurers is actually costlier because it provides the insurance carriers a profit and pays for multiple layers of overhead–the CEOs, the managers, etc., etc. Medicare, he points out, spends about 3% on overhead and pays no profit. The writer goes on to propose that if someone prefers to have private insurance they could opt out of Medicare and purchase their own coverage from a private insurer. Another option would be to buy a policy of insurance which would cover any procedure or care not provided by Medicare.
The system he proposes would in effect be a single-payer system which exists efficiently in many other countries and could ultimately be a money saver to all citizens of the United States. The single-payer system affords a better system for doctors and medical providers in that they do not have to file multiple types of paperwork, nor are they required to adhere to a multiple system of guidelines. While much to-do was made during the Affordable Care Act about patients not being able to have choice, the current system does exactly the opposite. It is common for an individual covered by an employer's health system to be told they must choose from accepted health providers rather than the provider of the individual's choice.
Of course, there are some issues Mr. Tomlinson failed to address which are keeping the cost of medical care almost out of sight for many. A prime example is the provision demanded by big-time, well-paid lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. It’s illegal to purchase drugs from outside the United States and illegal for the administrators of Medicare to even bargain with pharmaceutical corporations for price.
Obviously, Mr. Tomlinson has given the matter some thought which is more than I can say for many members of Congress whose only thought seems to be to oppose anything the Democrats or our current president propose. While such a mind-set maybe good politics for them, it’s really not good policy for American families. It is disgraceful the wealthiest nation on earth leaves many of its citizens at risk of their lives because too many of our elected officials would rather play politics than come up with plans that would relieve not only the physical but also financial suffering of millions of Americans.