Letter: Medicare for All deserves support
Over half of Americans delay or don't get health care because they can't afford it. That's because we are the only wealthy nation which does not have universal health care. Thirty million of us are uninsured and many more are underinsured. Even though insured, high deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments keep Americans from accessing care. The cost of care is prohibitive for many of us, and it is nearly twice that of other industrialized nations. The outcomes of patient care (such as infant or maternal mortality) are worse in the U.S. than in most industrialized nations. Our life expectancy is going down instead of up. What can we do? Universal single payer health care could make us a healthier nation at much less cost.
There is a growing movement to switch to a new type of health care financing called "Improved Medicare for All." For a number of years, there has been a bill in the U.S Congress (HR 676) which outlines how this switch could be accomplished. It now has many more sponsors than ever before (including our Representative Peter Welch), and our new Speaker of the House has promised to hold hearings. It would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that builds on the existing Medicare program. It would improve and expand Medicare to cover all U.S. residents. It would replace our fragmented patchwork of inefficient insurance companies whose primary goal is to make a profit. It is estimated that it will save 500 billion per year by controlling administrative and drug costs and eliminating high executive salaries and huge corporate profits. HR 676 will save money, add extra services such as coverage for dental care, and virtually eliminate out of pocket costs.
Our current system of health care is a failure, so who in their right mind would oppose a new plan? Polls show that the people are for such a plan; however the insurance companies, drug companies, and equipment manufacturers will be in opposition. Their lobbyists have great influence over our politicians and most of our legislators have received campaign contributions from them. There is now hope that the will of the people may prevail. Pramila Jayapal (Democrat from Washington) is now the lead sponsor of HR 676, but there is rumor that the bill is being changed to a Medicare-Buy-In option. This is not the same as the original HR 676 as a buy-in preserves the inefficient, costly insurance companies that have plagued us for years. You should write to her (319 Cannon House Office Building, Washington DC, 20515) and also to Congressman Peter Welch (128 Lakeside Ave, Suite 235, Burlington, VT, 05401) and ask that they support HR 676 as it is now written.
G. Richard Dundas, MD
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