Reader proposes single payer health plan, yearns for discussion
To the Editor:
It is unfortunate that the debate over healthcare seems to have been hijacked by those who don’t want there to be any debate. Instead, we have angry crowds who aren’t willing to allow an exchange of ideas which is the very foundation of our democracy. Perhaps only in “Letters to Editors” will there be a chance to discuss various solutions.
Two weeks ago, I argued in this paper for a Single Payer System of Healthcare. I also sent my thoughts to Senators Chambliss and Isakson. Senator Isakson wrote back his position opposing a government-run “Public Option” plan (which, by the way, is not even a “Single Payer” plan). I find his reasoning (and that of all the other conservatives in Congress) pretty mind-boggling.
Senator Isakson wrote: “It (a government-run 'public option' plan) also will place the federal government in unfair competition with private health insurers and managed care providers, as it will be impossible for private entities to compete fairly with the government that regulates them, taxes them, and is exempt from having to pay taxes itself.”
The truth is that our government has for decades given health insurance companies the most sweetheart deal possible. Insurance -- whether car, home, health, etc. -- works in one way. The insurer puts together the largest group of insured possible that enables it to spread risk to everyone. The number crunchers know how many people it will take that don’t make claims to cover the costs of those that do. The greater the pool, the better they are at determining what their pay outs will be. So here is where the sweetheart deal comes in. Not only has our government allowed the health insurance companies to drop those insured who will definitely need insurance because of pre-existing conditions, but they have removed the largest group from even being covered. With Medicare and Medicaid, our government is covering that group which will have the highest need of medical care. And because Medicare is only provided to those aged 65 and over, there is not a pool of insured that balance out these costs. But, did those of us with our private insurance even get a break in premiums because of this government largess? What do you think?
Here are the 2008 salaries of the CEOs at the top healthcare companies: Aetna - $23 million, Cigna - $30 million, Medco - $21 million, Humana - $20 million, United Health Group - $13 million, Wellpoint - $9 million, Coventry Healthcare - $20 million. To be clear, this total of $136 million dollars covers the salaries for one year of just seven CEOs.
We have 43 million uninsured people in this country. With just one year of the salaries of these top CEOs, we could cover 27 million of them with a lifetime maximum benefit of $5 million each. I’m sure not all 27 million would actually need that maximum. I’m not an actuary, but it seems reasonable to assume that no more than 50 percent would need that maximum. So, we just might be able to cover all 43 million for a lifetime with just one year’s salary of these seven CEOs.
When we hear arguments that the bills going through Congress will cost trillions of dollars, I think to myself, “not if we go to a Single Payer System.” How can it possibly cost that much if we just eliminate the unfair compensation of probably no more than 100 people and the rest of us continue to pay reasonable premiums (even if they are called taxes)? Why do we allow the insurance industry to have such a strangle-hold on this country when the care we are getting is so inferior to the rest of the industrialized nations? There was an article in the Washington Post back on November 30, 2008 about how “inefficient and wasteful” our healthcare system is. And guess what Newt Gingrich had to say. “There is more than enough money in the system”, said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who runs the district-based Center for Health Transformation. “We just are not spending it well.” Where or where is Newt Gingrich today?
A Single Payer System also solves the other objection of Senator Isakson: “I also oppose a mandate in the bill that will require employers with more than 25 workers to provide insurance or pay a penalty. I believe that provision would force many small businesses to eliminate jobs.” Why do we continue to connect health insurance to employment at all? Everyone benefits with a Single Payer System: corporations, factories, families, the ill and the healthy. We can then leave it up to the Insurance Companies to find a way to add value to what the government provides. After all, private schools, Federal Express, and UPS have done it!