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Hot Topics

Editor's Note: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is making universal health care a key issue in his campaign. Some leading members of the media are questioning his "numbers". Maine AllCare president Dr. Julie Pease responds.

Julie Keller Pease

Thorpe Health Care Analysis Flawed

February 16, 2016, The Times Record

The Associated Press article containing a “fact check” on health care quoted an analysis by Emory University economist Kenneth Thorpe “suggesting” that “the accounting comes up short”. The so-called “facts” in that analysis are actually based on a number of incorrect assumptions, distortions and missing data.

Doctors David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, both noted clinicians and researchers from Harvard Medical School and City University of New York School of Public Health have since refuted Thorpe’s analysis. They note that Thorpe’s analysis underestimates administrative savings, suggests an unlikely increase in health care utilization, doesn’t mention the huge tax subsidies currently filling the coffers of private insurance companies, and ignores the savings on drugs and medical devices realized by other countries with single-payer health care, all leading Thorpe to make the inaccurate claim that single payer health care would be too costly. University of Massachusetts economist Gerald Friedman also concluded that Thorpe’s analysis is “deeply flawed.”

It is unfortunate that the many benefits of a single payer health care system are being ignored in all of the clamor of election politics. There is only one truth and that is that a well designed single payer system would bring comprehensive health care to everyone, while removing financial barriers to care and making our national health expenditures sustainable well into the future.

If you’re interested in learning how a comprehensive universal plan would benefit both our health and our economy, I invite you to attend a free public screening of the documentary, “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point.” The film was produced by a Pennsylvania businessman who faced relentless annual cost increases to provide health insurance for his employees. He decided to tackle the problem by doing an in-depth analysis and then determining the fix. The film will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library. For more information, contact me at info@maineallcare.org.

Julie Keller Pease,
Brunswick

 

Single-payer would cut costs, improve care

By John Benziger, M.D., Kennebec (Maine) Journal, Letters, Feb. 11, 2016

Just as the tobacco and fossil-fuel industries sponsored “experts” to perpetuate the idea that their industries were harmless, the for-profit American heath care industry is now engaging in misinformation claiming Bernie Sander’s single-payer system would “break the bank.”

The truth is that an “Improved Medicare For All” single-payer system would cut costs drastically and provide coverage for everybody. Virtually every other developed country has an affordable universal system that proves the point.

At issue is that single-payer threatens the multimillion-dollar paychecks of insurance companies and their CEOs, and the outrageous profits of drug and medical device companies and medical entrepreneurs. Under single-payer, private health insurance companies are gone and the system can negotiate for lower drug and medical device costs.

People are waking up to see that corporate greed is hurting Americans. We have a broken for-profit health care system. Quality is mediocre, and more than 25 million Americans are still uninsured. Medicare, Medicaid and hospitals are under threat of new cuts. Meanwhile the nation’s for-profit health industry nets billions in profits, and CEOs take home tens of millions in pay.

A single-payer “Improved Medicare For All” would cut costs dramatically by streamlining health care paperwork and making health care affordable. Savings would be enough to provide coverage for everyone, without ANY additional spending! The concept is popular with the American people and enjoys the support of most doctors.

Consult Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org) and learn how you can help bring about a real universal health care system. Add your voice to the growing chorus, and tell our leaders to stand up for the health of the American people rather than the wealth of our richest firms.

Dr. John Benziger resides in South China, Maine.

 

Alice KnappMedicaid Expansion Under the Affordable Care Act
Remains An Issue For The Upcoming Legislative Session

by Alice Knapp, Attorney and Maine AllCare Board Member

The Supreme Court’s ACA decision last year striking down the planned withholding of all Medicaid funds from states declining Medicaid expansion paved the way for Governor LePage’s successful effort to drop more than 44,000 Mainers from MaineCare’s rolls this year. LePage argued program’s costs had become unsustainable with 27% of Mainers enrolled, including middle class families meeting strict income and asset guidelines. While eligibility and benefit expansions have historically led to cost explosions and annual funding shortfalls, the cost argument in support of declining ACA Medicaid expansion falls flat given 100% federally funding in the first 3 years with nothing to prevent slashing coverage thereafter.

While Medicaid expansion offers significant economic benefits, concern for human welfare drives the moral argument for expansion as studies show the uninsured are more likely to receive untimely and inferior medical care and to suffer unnecessary illness and premature death. While hospitals are required to screen and stabilize all emergency room visitors, a screening that reveals malignancy does not lead to free follow-up care, and the chronically ill, once stabilized, cannot expect to be sent home with a free supply of expensive drugs required to preserve health.

Advocates for true universal and equitable coverage, while sympathetic to and supportive of ACA Medicaid expansion, remain dismayed by the near silence regarding the thousands of Mainers who will remain uninsured and underinsured after full implementation of the ACA, Medicaid expansion or no. Consider the plight of a 60 year old, Washington County individual earning just over the $45,960 2013 cutoff for an ACA subsidy whose cheapest available Exchange plan option comes with a monthly premium of $685.27 and a $5,000 deductible. While the ACA caps annual out-of-pocket costs – not including premiums - to $6,350 per year, one need only contemplate the financial toll of high premiums and annual out of pocket cost multiplied over several years to understand why catastrophic medical expense is the number one cause of bankruptcy in this country despite most of those affected having been insured.

It remains unconscionable that we are the only industrialized country in the world without universal coverage despite spending nearly twice as much on health care as countries with universal systems. Until we achieve truly universal coverage, there is no justice to be found under the American healthcare system or the ACA.