My friend Whitney Hollingsworth, who is as bright as anybody I know, is shaking her fist at the American health care system today. She’s been put in the untenable position of having to choose between paying outrageous medical bills or taking care of her family. That’s something many of us go through on a daily basis and it is simply unnecessary, a product of the capitalist system we cling to against all evidence it works.
Whitney wrote (on Facebook): “The morality guilt trip threat is if you don’t support the ACA, you’re some sort of evil bastard who wants old people and children to die in the streets of rickets and leprosy. Wrong. The facts are: you pay and pay and pay and no one benefits.
“It doesn’t go to my family, it doesn’t go to the poor; it goes into some sort of insurance cloud and the distribution is arbitrary. You’re told that you have to pay or people will die. When the truth is you pay so that [hospital systems] can create jobs that aren’t necessary to fill a building they don’t need so that they have to dabble in real estate to do renovations they don’t need to a building they don’t need to house employees they don’t need for a department they don’t need.”
Whitney is angry and frustrated. Finding the responsible party in this mess is a lot more difficult than pointing a finger or waving a hand. It is a complex, troubled and rigged system that most of us don’t understand, except to know that we get bills equal to what we owe on our homes for replacing a joint. We pay $1,500 a month for medications that have been around for years, without a good explanation why. The government financially supports big pharma research, then gives companies exclusive rights for specific drugs for years, allowing any price the company chooses.
And none of it–not one bit of it–works. We rank 37th in the world (World Health Organization, here) in quality of medical care behind such notables as Costa Rico, Chile, Morocco, Cyprus and Colombia. Our emergency response is good, but everything else lags.
The Commonwealth Fund, which ranks care in 10 rich countries, says the U.S. is dead last in quality within this group (Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland), but “Americans now spend $9,523 per person a year on medical expenses.” That’s the leader by a lot.
The solution? Here’s mine:
Medicare for All.
How would it work? Like this:
Medicare must be given the power to negotiate with big pharma, doctors and hospitals.Consumers would be allowed to find the best price for service and goods, regardless of where they are (Europe for knee surgery, Canada for drugs, for example).
Medicare for All should be controlled by a board of eight selected by the president (Trump won’t always be in office) and approved by the Senate with 60 votes. Terms would be staggered 4-6-8-10 years (rotating) for the members who would be selected 1/4 the medical community; 1/4 from industry (excluding medicine); 1/4 consumers; 1/4 miscellaneous.
Medical care costs would dramatically decrease and medical professionals would be treated fairly, though not extravagantly. A knee surgery, for example, would not cost $60,000 (it costs $13,000 in Germany, the cost of the appliance here and Germany’s economy is similar to ours).
I believe the overall economy (health care is 1/6th of it) would benefit, workers would be much more secure and satisfied, productivity would increase, the nation would be much, much healthier in every sense.