Another New Year's Resolution: Better Medicine
January 9, 2002
True progressive thinkers/writers do not merely find fault - we offer solutions! That is, to expand the current Medicare/Medicaid system to include all. Each person contributes according to one's income (with a ceiling) similar to the FICA tax structure. Employers contribute in the same manner as well. Cover all workers, part time and full, and give the employer a tax write off for those contributions. That places all Americans under one umbrella of coverage. Simply put, one form to submit, one insurer (the people a.k.a. the gov't) and a savings of possibly hundreds of millions a year in administration costs alone. With one insurer the government can pressure the drug companies to charge less (as in the Cipro incident) and also allow for generics to compete fairly with the original brands.
How about the doctors? Will they sit still for this? Well, over 30 some odd years ago many health professionals, through their lobbyists, fought like hell against Medicare/Medicaid. They called it socialistic (it is). They called it flawed (somewhat). They said it would never work. Well, were they wrong! It does work, better than if left to the private sector. What it did was drive down the ceiling on fees. Doctors had a decision: is a "bird in the hand worth more than two in the bush" (no pun intended)? Was it better to get a lower payment as opposed to outrageous collection problems? You see, a patient with no (or limited) health coverage, making "peanuts" a year in income, just cannot pay high medical bills. I asked my dentist how he felt about including dental coverage under the universal healthcare umbrella. His answer was that despite the low fee payments, it was still worth it. He told of the tremendous number of people who cannot and do not pay their bills, causing a collection nightmare.
So, all we do is adopt the system of "universal medicare," including dental and alternative therapies like psychological counseling, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, etc. This then offers most Americans more options from the current "cut and drug" status quo. We also should give the doctors a break as well, if they participate. They'd receive subsidies to cover their medical schooling, thus eliminating a "shingle with $100-150k of debt." We'd help them with their malpractice premiums as well. As long as they act professionally, the gov't picks up most of the tab. In return they participate in this "universal" program.
Just think of all the money this "streamlined" system would save. We could visit our doctor of choice, get proper services rendered, and everyone makes out-except the insurance companies. In actuality the insurance on life, home and health is in fact "legalized gambling." The insurance company does not create a product, or even provide a service. They are simply what I call the "reverse bookmaker." If you "win," by dying, being injured or having your home hit by a tornado, then the "bookie" pays up. If you lose by being healthy and safe, then the bookie wins and keeps your premiums. Why do we need private insurers? Local, state and federal governments can operate as insurers, saving consumers lots of money. When we take the profit out of the insurance concept, the people profit!
For those of you who say the system will be corrupt: with all the money saved on claim processing alone, we can afford to closely monitor fraud. We can increase the penalties for any such scams as well. Plus, we could have a "co-pay" structure of perhaps 5-10 dollars per visit to discourage frivolous use of the program.
The bottom line is that all Americans would have the security and peace of mind that our retired and indigent folk have. Plus, this new system would be even more comprehensive than the current Medicare/Medicaid. So, why not immediately contact your elected officials - tell them if they don't grant you the same coverage as they have, you'll vote "no" on their re-election bid. That, to this writer is better medicine.
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Philip Farruggio, son of a longshoreman, is Brooklyn born, raised and educated (Brooklyn College, Class of '74). A former progressive talk show host, Philip runs a manufacturers representative business and writes regularly for many publications. He lives currently in Port Orange, FL.
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