Q&A: Why we need a public option for health insurance

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has written an excellent piece for Truthout that explains why a public option for health insurance is so vital to true healthcare reform.

Here are some choice excerpts from Dean’s article, which I’ve organized in a Q&A format:

Why is healthcare so expensive in the United States today?

The basic story is simple. The insurance, pharmaceutical and medical supply industries, along with the hospitals and the American Medical Association, have rigged the deck so that they get rich at the public’s expense. They have structured our health care system so that we pay more than twice as much per person as people in other wealthy countries, even though we get worse care by many measures. The bloat in the health care sector is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade as health care consumes an ever larger share of the economy.

Who benefits from high drug prices?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that just the increase in health care spending share of the economy over the next decade will cost us $4.3 trillion. That is equal to a health care tax of $57,000 for an average family of four … CMS projects that $1.4 trillion, or $18,500 per family will go to the hospitals. Doctors and the pharmaceutical companies are each expected to score about $550 billion, costing families $7,300. And the insurance industry’s share of GDP is projected to rise by $360 billion, or $4,800 for an average family.

What are some examples of the current system’s inefficiencies?

The government grants the pharmaceutical industry patent monopolies that prevent normal competition in the prescription drug market. Unlike every other country in the world, the United States lets the drug companies use their government-granted monopolies to charge whatever they want. As a result, we pay nearly twice as much for our prescription drugs as people in countries like Canada and Germany.

Similarly, doctors are able to tightly control the supply of both US trained physicians and the number of doctors that can enter the country from abroad. If custodians had the same control over the labor market for janitors, they would all be making $80,000 a year. We pay close to twice as much for our doctors as people in other wealthy countries. The gap is especially wide for highly paid specialists like neurosurgeons and cardiologists.

Of course, the insurance industry is a total mess. They pocket more than 15 cents for every dollar they pay out to providers. By comparison, the administrative costs of Medicare are less than 2 percent of its revenue.

Why don’t private insurers want consumers to have a public option?

If the insurers ever had to compete with a publicly run insurance plan on a level playing field, they would be blown out of the water. We know that private insurers can’t compete because we already had this experiment with the Medicare program. When private insurers had to compete on a level playing field with the traditional government-run plan they were almost driven from the market. That is why they got their friends in Congress to pass Medicare Advantage. This program spreads the wealth around by giving the private insurers a subsidy of more than 11 percent per patient.

As Congress debates health care reform, we should be very clear what is going on. It is easy to devise reforms that will reduce costs without jeopardizing the quality of care. That is not the fight. The fight is over whether Congress will leave in place structures that will siphon an ever-larger amount of money out of taxpayers’ pockets and put this money in the hands of the insurance industry, the hospitals, the drug companies and the doctors.

What will happen if the public option fails?

Unless Congress creates a serious public plan, you can expect to be hit with the largest tax increase in the history of the world — all of it going into the pockets of the health care industry.

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Comments (2)

AMERICA’S NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY!

It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.

STAND READY AMERICA TO SEIZE CONTROL OF YOUR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.

We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.

THIS IS THE BIG ONE!

THE BATTLE OF GOOD Vs EVIL!

Join the fight.

Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

God Bless You

Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

Holy cow. jacksmith’s spam comment almost sounds halfway logical until you read the parts where it says, “Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust government-run public option for all Americans,”
and, “If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.”

Don’t give up your guns, and do not vote for a government-run = government-OWNED healthcare program. Socialism is one step closer to communism, and the “common good” is a big, fuggin lie.

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