To the editor:
The United States has the most expensive health care in the world, but our healthcare outcomes are inferior to those of many other developed countries. This is because many cannot afford insurance premiums, even for plans partially paid for by employers. As a result, 13.7 percent of Americans are without health insurance and millions more have inadequate coverage.
This employer-sponsored health insurance system means that many people go through a period of being uninsured each year, because when you lose your job you lose your insurance. Last year, one in four Americans went through an uninsured period. These people, and, because of high premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and uncovered services, many insured people often go without care or are saddled with tremendous debt to pay for medical care. Furthermore, our multi-payer, private insurance based system is highly inefficient and inconvenient with administrative costs often approaching 30 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare.
On July 16, The Berkshire Eagle reported that former Vice President Joe Biden’s approach to this unacceptable situation is to offer “a so-called public option that would enable anyone to sign up for a government-run health plan like Medicare,” while retaining our current employer-based insurance system. Of course, subscribers to the public option would still pay a premium, and this insurance plan would just add one more payer to our current wasteful, duplicative multi-payer chaos. This proposal by Mr. Biden, now a candidate for president, is directly antithetical to the Medicare-for-All plan offered by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Sen. Sanders, in particular, has advocated the elimination of most private health insurance plans. This single-payer plan would be paid for by a payroll tax which, for most people, would be far less than the expense of premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket payments for uncovered medical services. The experience of countries like Canada and Taiwan which have such single-payer plans is that the coverage provided is highly efficient and comprehensive while removing the financial barriers to the access to medical care resulting in superior healthcare outcomes and lower per capita costs.
I believe that we should support the candidate who advocates this single-payer (an improved Medicare-for-All) plan that would accomplish the goals of effectiveness, equity, and efficiency so that we can all have the health care that we need. We should also urge our congressmen to do the same thing.
Charles I. Wohl, M.D.,
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