Think Medicare-for-all is a bad deal? A doctor explains why you’re wrong

Congressional candidate Josh Harder went to a town hall meeting in Modesto; one of his standard talking points is Medicare for all, or a single-payer healthcare system.
Congressional candidate Josh Harder went to a town hall meeting in Modesto; one of his standard talking points is Medicare for all, or a single-payer healthcare system. jlee@modbee.com

The silly season is upon us – you know, that period in late summer every two years known as “election time.” It’s a season in which truths die by the thousand, hyperbole reaches its apex and most Americans plug their ears and wait for it all to pass.

Plugging of ears is probably the only bipartisan effort that remain in this fractionated nation.

Usually the bar is set low and most political transgressions (little lies) are accepted as normal. But occasionally someone stretches the truth beyond belief into actual lies that need reply.

Such was the Jeff Denham hit-piece mailer suggesting that challenger Josh Harder’s health plan would “make you sick.”

Harder’s plan is the gradual and financially responsible evolution of Medicare to all Americans, also known as “Medicare for all” or “single payer” – but more on this later.

Denham says single-payer is “wrong for the Valley” and would:

▪ Raid the Medicare Trust Fund – Of course it would, as the two healthcare programs merge the finances.

▪ Remove Employer Health Plans – Of course it would. The new plan follows the person, not the employer.

▪ Force Everyone Into a Canadian-style Government-Run Plan – We should be so lucky. Canada covers every citizen at a cost 30 percent less than the cost per person in the United States – with better outcomes (length of life, fetal death rates and others). It’s also gets far higher popularity scores. (The most popular insurance “company” in the U.S.? – Medicare by a landslide).

Waiting times can be long in Canada, but urgent cases, with rare exceptions, go to the head of the line.

Reverse the question and ask how many uninsured Americans don’t seek medical care when they should, only to suffer the consequences?

Here’s an interesting statistic: America has almost as many uninsured citizens (30 million) as Canada has people (36 million).

▪ A Cost of $32 Trillion – requiring a doubling of our income taxes. The total annual healthcare cost in America is about $3.2 trillion and that does not consider elimination of private premiums. We should be able to duplicate the experience of the many large industrial democratic nations whose costs are 30 percent less than ours; this would actually lower costs by $1 trillion a year – not increase them.

▪ Harder’s Idea Is Radical? – Not by a long shot. When South Korea emerged as a first-world nation, it realized it had a third-world health care system and sent a group of experts to various European and other countries to learn what worked and what did not. But first the South Koreans came to the U.S. because we were such a big, rich nation that had been first to put a man on the moon. When they made their final decision, South Korea chose a single-payer system.

The South Korean experts were asked what they learned about America’s health care structure. Their answer was simple: “We learned what not to do.”

Radical? Every industrial, first-world democratic nation has some form of single-payer healthcare. But they do four things we do not:

▪ They cover everyone.

▪ Their national cost of coverage averages 30 percent less than our cost.

▪ They achieve better healthcare outcomes.

▪ They have higher public support than the system in the U.S.

No system is free from criticism and none are perfect. All struggle with rising costs. Even though doctors and hospitals might remain private, all financing and administration stay with the government under single-payer.

But one core belief is found in all these countries - it is the proper function of government to provide medical care or see that medical care at certain level is provided to all citizens. We have no such commitment in the United States. It is estimated that 30,000 + Americans die prematurely and unnecessarily every year because they have no health insurance.

The single payer plan is now supported by over 100 US congress members and is right for the Valley and the nation. What’s wrong for the Valley and the nation is Mr. Denham and those who think as he does.

C.V. Allen is a retired Modesto physician active in healthcare reform issues. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee. Comments or questions to columns@modbee.com.