Let’s cure health insurance

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To the editor:
Michael Waldron, in a letter titled “Look carefully at health care,” on July 9, 2009, wrote that he is suspicious of “government health care” because of his experience with veterans health care, and thinks that health care provided by private enterprise, which is through private health insurance, is more efficient. However, Medicare for the elderly and disabled is far more efficient that private insurance, even while it cares for the sickest, most expensive patients, thereby effectively subsidizing private insurance. Here’s why private health insurance failed.
Almost 50 million Americans lack health coverage now, 87 million (one in three) were uninsured at some point during 2007-08 and 20,000 deaths a year are attributed to lack of coverage. The 50 million who lack health insurance are often reduced to seeking the most expensive type of care that is available: the emergency room. Part of our premiums pay for that high cost, low quality care.
Premiums are so high that people are forced to accept the cheapest available plans. They have such high deductibles and co-pay provisions that patients avoid or delay seeking the care they need in time to avoid serious and even fatal progression of disease.
Health insurance is about twice as expensive in the U.S. as in the average developed country, yet the quality of care is rated D (65 out of a possible 100) by a Commonwealth Study, ranking us dead last among 19 developed countries in terms of deaths that could have been prevented with standard care.
How can we end up with the worst care when we pay the highest price?
Private health insurance has deteriorated into a massive, wasteful bureaucracy with perverse incentives that result in destructive competition among insurers to provide the least care for the highest price.
The drive for profits causes insurance firms to take advantage of the choke hold they can exercise over health care by finding more and more ingenious (some say devious) ways to deny payments for care so that more and more of the premiums fall to the bottom line as profits.
Twenty to thirty percent of our health care premiums are spent on administrative costs, much of it to deny care to those who need it by hiring armies of bureaucrats to: 1) avoid insuring sick people; 2) deny paying the medical bills of those whom they do insure; and 3) find ways to rescind the coverage and refuse payment of bills for those who already paid their premiums, but failed to dot any i or cross any t in the thick, impossibly complicated and arcane application forms the insurers require. . . Still another army of lobbyists and lawyers is paid to get Congress to give special privileges to insurers, at the expense of patients.
No wonder health care is so expensive and so ineffective in the U.S.
Clerks and “bean counters” have interposed themselves between patients and doctors. Doctors have to waste time and money fighting insurance companies instead of treating patients, and patients are caught in the crossfire.
We feel sickened from endless reports of death and suffering of individuals who were denied needed care. Private health insurance is an army at war against the health needs of Americans, using much of our premiums to deprive health care instead of providing health care.
We citizen-voters of this democracy are faced with a life or death choice: demand that Congress give us the option of health care through a rational, accountable system, and end our dependence on the existing conflict ridden, chaotic anarchy that rewards insurance companies for providing the least care and charging the highest possible premiums; or let the insurers continue holding us hostage to their perverse rationing of health care.
Please demand that your Senators and Representatives adopt either a strong public health insurance option or a single payer plan.

John Young,
Union Pier