Witt: Pressure from insurance companies stalling universal health care in U.S.

It is long past time for Congress to quit talking and arguing about universal health care in the U.S. and move to do something about implementing it.

What is the morality in suggesting — under current law — it is alright to provide such care for those over a certain age, but deny it to all others?

Currently, 32 of 33 developed countries have universal healthcare, the U.S. being the lone holdout.

Of those 32 countries, 15 utilize a single-payer system, which covers the entire population.  One of those single-payer countries, Norway, has had its system in effect since 1912.

And even Medicare is not classified as a single-payer system, rather a two-tier system in which the government provides basic coverage (requiring a monthly fee) and the individual is recommended to purchase additional coverage.

For instance, Medicare usually covers about 80 percent of medical services, and supplemental coverage is used to cover the additional 20 percent (with premiums paid by the patient).

And even though Medicare Part D is designed to help with the costs of medications, the patient will normally have a co-pay, and this co-pay can become burdensome if the total costs of the patients medications exceed a certain yearly amount, placing them in “the doughnut hole” (an incredibly idiotic system with no apparent rationale and which should more accurately be labeled “the black hole”), when the co-pay becomes as much as 40 percent of the cost of the medication.

And make no mistake, the cost of all medications is inflated, especially those medications which are still under patent protection.

Even among 201 listed countries — both developed and under-developed — 123 are listed as having some form of universal healthcare.

There have been numerous arguments in Congress relating to a comparison between health care in the U.S. and Canada, with senators like John Cornyn, erroneously claiming people are flooding south from Canada because they can’t get health care there in a timely manner — a claim roundly disputed by the healthcare providers in that country.

Not only are health care outcomes in Canada generally considered to be good, the price of medications there is always less than in the U.S.

So, why is universal health care so difficult to establish in this country?

Perhaps the main reason is pressure from the insurance industry.

According to The Conversation, an online, independent, not-for-profit information service, in 2009, there was $1.2 billion spent lobbying Congress about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Of that amount, the insurance industry “spent $100 million to help shape the ACA and keep private insurers, as opposed to the government, as the key cog in American health care.”

Why? Profit.

And with that provision for profit comes complexity, because doctors, hospitals and virtually all health care providers are faced with a plethora of documents — all different — which have to be submitted to the various insurers to account for services.

Universal health care in America could be accommodated with a single-payer in much the same way Social Security and Medicare are now handled, with wage withholding and monthly fees.

But the first obstacle will be to eliminate the for-profit aspect of the process by removing private insurers from the picture.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.