VOICES: Our healthcare is a bad deal and it’s getting worse. Medicare for All can change that

Montgomery and Clark counties rank 75th and 80th respectively (out of 88) for health outcomes according to countyhealthrankings.org. Having higher unemployment and poverty, financial barriers are a major factor. Medicare for All will eliminate those barriers.

I’m the Dayton area coordinator for SPAN Ohio (Single Payer Action Network), a grassroots group working for universal healthcare in Ohio and across the nation.

I’m a naturalized American Citizen, born in the UK in 1948. That year also saw the birth of the National Health Service that provides healthcare to all Britons with no financial barriers. In the UK patients never see a medical bill. The NHS, like public education, police, and fire, is funded through taxation and regarded as essential for a modern economy. Britons are healthier than Americans, and live longer, according to worldometers.info, and do it with per-capita spending less than half that in the US, according to Wikipedia.

US healthcare is a jerry-rigged, complicated patchwork that does a disservice to all except those making huge profits at our expense. It is inefficient, and it distorts our society by restricting our freedoms. Often our jobs provide health insurance, but you don’t get to choose your insurer and if in a network, your provider. Lose your job, lose your health insurance, as many have discovered during COVID. Thirty million Americans have no insurance, according to Statistica Research. Kaiser Health News reports that millions more are underinsured. Illness can be financially devastating for those with inadequate insurance, putting over 100 million Americans in healthcare debt, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/NPR study, now the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.

Health insurers are requiring people to pay ever more in out-of-pocket expenses, premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. High deductible plans are becoming the norm. My wife’s employer recently doubled her annual deductible to $4,000. My neighbor’s family plan has a $9,000 annual deductible! Ohio ranks 47th (of 50) in health value, (we pay more and have poorer outcomes), according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

Health insurers are in business to make money. They’re happy to insure healthy people. Sick people eat into their profits. Insurance companies’ bureaucracies are designed to limit their financial liabilities. They are incentivized to deny care.

It’s a bad deal and getting worse.

Let’s eliminate the health insurance industry, do away with the connection of healthcare to employment, and make access to good health a right for all Americans. The Medicare for All bills before congress will do that and more. They’ll do away with healthcare bills, premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. They’ll add dental and vision services, mental health, addiction treatment, and long-term care. Our government will become the “single payer” for all medical expenses, collecting taxes to do that, saving you healthcare costs. Hospitals and other medical facilities will operate under “global budgets”, allocating money according to the medical needs of each local community. With no billing, administrative costs will be reduced dramatically. If Medicare for All had been in place in 2018 it is likely that Good Samaritan Hospital would still be standing, and rural hospitals in Ohio would not be closing. Drug prices will be negotiated instead of fixed with each insurance. Drug prices will be lower. And we’ll have the freedom to choose our own medical providers.

The principle works in other advanced economies. It’ll work here. The Dayton City Commission have unanimously passed a resolution supporting Medicare for All. We’re working to get Ohio legislators on board for national and state bills.

Join SPAN Ohio (spanohio.org) in the fight to introduce a rational system for delivering quality healthcare for us all.

Tim Bruce is a retired teacher, on traditional Medicare, who lives in Dayton.

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