The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writers.
As physicians who have been working on improving our health care system by implementing an improved “Medicare for All,” we are dismayed by the current debate on health care reform, both on the part of the journalists and politicians.
We hope to clear up some of the myths that have been commonly portrayed in the media.
Myth No. 1: Medicare for All will cause Americans to lose their private health insurance coverage.
Fact: yes, but it will be replaced by a comprehensive government-financed (not government-controlled) insurance plan that will cover all Americans and include all physicians.
Your current physician from your private health insurance plan, will be part of the Medicare for All plan. There will be no out-of-pocket costs, no copays, no deductibles, no surprise billing or risk of medical bankruptcy.
After all, what do private insurance companies contribute to health care other than adding to complexity, paying CEOs exorbitant salaries (in the 100s of millions of dollars) and reaping enormous profits? Right now, over 20% of all the money spent on health care goes to these companies, which provide no benefit.
That money could be used to insure the 20 million Americans without health coverage now.
Myth No.2: Taxes will go up.
Yes, Medicare for All will be paid for by a progressive tax and possibly other taxes on the wealthy and financial transactions. For the vast majority of Americans, their costs on health care will drop significantly.
Currently, health insurance costs the average family of four over $12,000 a year from premiums, copays and deductibles.
This will be replaced by an equitable tax based on income and most people will wind up paying far less in new taxes than they are currently paying for all of their healthcare costs.
Myth No. 3: We can’t afford it.
Currently, the U.S. pays more than twice as much as most other developed countries and our health outcomes are worse than theirs. These other countries all have a version of single-payer, and if they have any private insurance, they are closely regulated and must be nonprofit.
In other words, we can’t afford NOT to introduce Medicare for All because our current costs are going to keep rising.
Myth No. 4: It’s too disruptive.
Changes in employment or marital status, reaching age 26, or increased income above eligibility thresholds for Medicaid or exchange subsidies currently disrupt coverage for needed care. Improved Medicare for All is cradle to grave coverage that each of us can afford.
Having no cost at the time of service is important to avoid disruptions. Medicare for All is actually less disruptive.
Myth No. 5: We need to take smaller, safer steps.
Incremental steps, such as a Medicaid or Medicare public option, have been proposed by several of the Democratic candidates.
Yet it is putting a Band-Aid on a dirty, infected wound and won’t solve our health-care problems. For-profit insurance companies collude with the drug and large hospital corporations, creating the current extreme costs for health care and gaps in care that are so prevalent in our country.
If we continue private insurance with the public option, two problems emerge. We won’t get the savings we can get from eliminating private insurance and the private insurance companies will cherry pick the healthier people and the public option will not survive.
The improved Medicare for All legislation includes vision, dental, hearing, mental health and long-term care.
It will eliminate the financial burden of premium, deductibles and copays so nobody would ever have to choose between paying their bills and going to the doctor; medical bankruptcy will be a thing of the past.
Eve Shapiro is a pediatrician and Paul Gordon is a family practice physician in Tucson.