A major campaign against single-payer health care — or Medicare-for-all if you prefer — has been waging the past several months.
A health system that has served most of the rest of the civilized world quite well the past many decades at relatively half the cost that Americans spend has been demonized as unworkable and hopelessly unaffordable.
Worse, of course, it's been labeled socialistic, a "far left" idea and, therefore, un-American.
Recent polling shows that many Americans have bought the arguments made by those whose profits depend on maintaining the status quo. The claim is that a single-payer plan will cost $50 trillion over the next 10 years and force working Americans to give up their coveted employer-provided insurance. What they fail to mention is that the cost of our current system, if left unchanged, will cost even more than that.
A consortium of insurance companies, for-profit hospitals and drug conglomerates have been spending millions to spew nonsense — for instance, that you will lose your doctor and be forced to stand in line for medical treatment. The so-called Partnership for America's Health Care Future, a consortium of organizations and businesses that thrive under our current system, has been spending millions to protect the status quo.
And all too often, a gullible media take it as the gospel truth.
There's no question that Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was a giant step forward, insuring low-income Americans, who never were covered before, through Medicaid and insurance exchanges. But, thanks to sabotage by the Trump administration, it's been weakened, and the number of Americans without any health care coverage is rising once again. Latest figures show 27.5 million Americans are uncovered.
As for the employer-paid private insurance that the for-profit consortium laments will be lost under a single-payer system, I've been clipping stories about just how well that's working.
They tell of the heartbreak when patients learn from their private insurers that certain treatments aren't covered. The Chicago Tribune reported a sad story recently about an insurance company declining five times to pay for treatment for a 4-year-old, only acquiescing when the paper got involved.
There are stories about frantic families being plunged into bankruptcy because they can't afford even the co-pays that are increasing each year, or the growing thresholds that the sick must cover before insurance kicks in.
And, no, these aren't problems confined to Medicaid cases or low-cost insurance plans that offer scant protection. They are occurring regularly in those employer-paid private plans, too.
In September, the New York Times reported how some hospitals and medical centers are getting tough on those who owe them money. Under the headline, "Proficient at Healing, and Suing," the paper reported how the Carlsbad Medical Center in New Mexico had filed 3,000 lawsuits against patients in the past four years. The Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has filed 8,300 suits in the past five years.
But, even they pale compared to Virginia, where hospitals filed more than 20,000 lawsuits in 2017 alone.
"The majority of accounts from which we seek to collect payments are patients with insurance who have not fulfilled their deductible, co-payment or coinsurance responsibility set by their health insurance plan," a spokesperson for the Carlsbad group said.
Meanwhile, the skyrocketing costs of drugs is forcing many Americans to skimp on medications, prompting alarm from the National Center for Health Statistics. What's surprising, the center reported, is that 14% of patients with private insurance have been forced to go without their medicine.
As any senior citizen on Medicare can attest, these aren't problems under a single-payer system.
Yet, it's demonized as "far left," when, in fact, it ought to be mainstream.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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