Proponents of good health prescribe surgery: insurance-ectomyOwing to a dysfunctional health care delivery system, thousands of Americans live sicker and die younger because they lack access to even basic care.
By Arlen and Jean Comfort
The health UNsurance problem
Owing to a dysfunctional health care delivery system, thousands of Americans live sicker and die younger because they lack access to even basic care.
Most of us have UNsurance because we are unsure what it covers today, unsure what it will cover tomorrow, and unsure if we will have coverage next week. The fastest-growing group of uninsured people last year was middle- and upper-income adults. Frequent rate increases have caused significant economic hardship for California residents and their employers. Emergency departments and trauma centers face growing financial losses. Increasing patient volume and a decline in the number of emergency rooms have made multiple hour waits for emergency care the norm.
With our old system the most profit goes to the insurance company selling the most insurance to the healthiest and avoiding the neediest. It is a system of perverse incentives where everyone has the incentive to do the wrong thing.
- Doctors turn people away who have inadequate or no coverage.
- Patients forgo treatment until their conditions become urgent.
- Adults working full-time jobs are advised to go part-time to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.
- Others are encouraged to spend down everything they've saved to get public assistance.
- Hospitals are forced to inflate rates because insurance companies cut reimbursements.
- We build hospitals without emergency rooms to serve only the insured.
- Health insurance companies try to sell to the healthiest people and then limit coverage where it's needed most: pre-existing conditions.
- Medical history is used to exclude you when it should be used to help treat you.
The government and taxpayers already pay for health care in the least efficient way possible, after people get sick and need emergency or hospital care. So, there is Medigap, Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, and a medic with MedEvac, when all we really need is Single Payer.
California's fantastic health care fix
Under a single payer health care system, California could afford to cover all California residents at no new cost to the state. By simplifying administration, achieving bulk purchase discounts on pharmaceuticals, and reducing the use of emergency facilities for primary care, California could divert billions of dollars toward providing direct health care with improved quality and access. An independent study done for the state of California (Health Care Options Project, HCOP) by two consulting companies showed quantitatively that this was and could be accomplished only with a single payer system.
SB 921 (Sheila Kuehl) is awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Health Committee with a probable hearing date in March. Citizens are advised to continue to get endorsements for the bill from organizations and local governments and to meet with legislators. A summary of SB 921 can be read at: http://www.healthcareforall.org/single_payer.html.
Arlen and Jean Comfort are County Council members of the Green Party of San Mateo County.
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