Ten issues that go away with a national health insurance system:
1. The approximately 47,000,000 uninsured: All will have access to coverage with incentives for provider efficiency and the most cost efficient interventions.
2. The profit squeeze on employers who provide health insurance to employees: It’s estimated that U.S. car makers have expenses of over $1500/car related to health care coverage for employees. A national system, delinked from employer based insurance, allows our employers to compete on the same basis as those in other industrialized countries.
3. Our disgraceful system of health care for GI’s and their families: Incorporating the VA and military health care systems is into a National Health Insurance program provides more and better options for care. These will be community based and thus provide more convenient access.
4. The administrative duplication and fraudulent behavior of multiple insurance providers, each with their own administrative overhead and fiduciary responsibility to generate profits: It’s estimated that we spend 30% of our expenditures for health on administration ($1059/capita in U.S. vs $307/capita in Canada). That could easily be halved or more with a national health program.
5. The conflict of interest between insurers, providers and patients.
6. The crisis in emergency rooms: With insurance people will have a place, other than ER’s, to go with non-emergent medical issues
7. The dance of the veils billing system: There is no set price for services. Those with leverage, i.e. large insurers, are given large discounts while the individual pays the full amount. If everyone has insurance there will be one negotiated price.
8. Big PHARMA’s free ride: We pay more for medications than any other industrialized country. PHARMA’s mantra that they need profits to encourage creativity is bogus when one considers they spend more on promotion and advertising than research. In a national insurance scheme drug price negotiation will be the rule–as it is in the rest of the industrialized world. (see more below)
9. Bankruptcy due to enormous medical bills
10. Our mediocre health care outcomes: We spend more per capita than anyone, yet our outcomes are in the middle of the pack. With universal access we can expect this to change.
None of this will be automatic and actually having an efficient functioning system of care will require much due diligence and negotiation.
What won’t change is physician unhappiness with reimbursements and the continuing issues with intellectual property rights. No where in the world are physicians as well paid as here. We’ve made the profession entrepreneurial and money driven and in the current non-system reward procedures rather than primary care. It can be anticipated that a national health insurance scheme will want to flatten the disparities and redistribute, somewhat, the fees. One would hope this would guarantee all physicians reasonable reimbursement for their time and expenses. However, meeting the expectations of the profession will be almost impossible–as it is now.
We do need some type of protection for innovators in our system. We should not however delude ourselves that this is a “free market”. Patent protection creates monopoly and in health care that has resulted in a life threatening market distortion that we can no longer afford. We need to somehow require patent holders to price their products responsibly and to be efficient in their product development and marketing. Once again meeting the expectations of the industry and their stockholders will be almost impossible–as it is now.
But in both cases the status quo is not working.