The case for Universal Medicare

Contributing Writer

Let me start out by stating that America has the most inefficient, most costly, medical care system in the developed world.

There are a gazillion studies, view-able on the internet, comparing the US medical care system with all the other developed/industrialized nations, showing that America ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of medical visits, length of hospital stays, missed days of work, general health and longevity. Yet people in the US pay two to three times as much as any of the other developed countries. All the other countries have universal health care. Why is this true? The US already has universal coverage for all citizens over sixty-four, that includes prescription drug coverage. Medicare is run amazingly efficiently with 2.3% administration costs.

We Have Better Medical Care: this is one of the main arguments opponents to universal medicare.  However the facts to not support this claim, including rationing of services for non-essential services. Within a single decade America will see fluctuations in the number of uninsured go from 18 million before Obamacare, to 12 million currently, to 24 million if the GOP health care plan becomes law. For uninsured people, elective services to not even exist. People with flimsy healthcare coverage, and high deductibles, will also find many elective treatments out of financial reach. If you live in a small town or rural area, many elective services are not available. Those people will need to travel to a large city. This is true for chronic or ongoing illnesses where travel costs will also put many elective treatments out of reach. Certainly for those fortunate Americans with generous healthcare policies, all medical services are readily available.

So better healthcare is only available to some Americans. For tens of millions of Americans with no, or inadequate healthcare insurance, their medical care is inferior to all the other developed countries. Yet we are the most prosperous nation on earth, How is this true?

Where does all the money go? If Americans are spending much more than the other developed countries, yet our national health ranks 35th according the U.N. World Health Organization, just behind Costa Rica. It is estimated that 30% of the US healthcare expenditure goes to insurance company marketing, profits and overhead expenses, Add to that the added inefficiencies of a huge administration layer that insurance providers place on top of our healthcare delivery system. As Bob Dylan once remarked, this insurance industry administrative layer looks like a mattress balanced on a bottle of wine, adding still more costs and inefficiencies. Compare the above to the 2.3% overhead efficiency of the Medicare system.

Advantages of a universal Medicare system: Our country has recently entered the digital age of medical record management. Prior to Obamacare, the great majority of patient records were kept in folders in the doctor’s office. Now all medical records are kept on computers. This information is being collected and analyzed in an attempt to discover “best practices” and the most cost effective ways to treat medical conditions. There will soon be a quantum leap in both cost reductions and quality of care as a result of applying “big data” analysis to hundreds and hundreds of millions of medical record entries.

This is huge! For instance we now know that 5% of Americans use 50% of  medical expenditures. A universal Medicare system could efficiently manage the costly 5% and attempt to introduce lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, drug use, etc. It will be much more cost effective to alter the behavior of the 5% through education, counseling and economic inducements, than keep spending a disproportionate percentage of the medical budget on after the fact treatment.

You might ask why neither Democrat or Republican Congressmen appear the least interested in a universal single-payer healthcare system, as exists in all the other developed countries, where per capita costs are much lower than our current costs. Certainly these Congressmen do not believe that all the other industrialized countries are stupid. Perhaps knowing that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are the top contributors to state and federal re-election campaigns might illuminate the problem. In a round-about way, we the American people, through exorbitant national medical costs, are the actual source of these campaign funds.

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2 Responses for “The case for Universal Medicare”

  1. Lynn Cook says:

    I agree! Let’s ban corporate funding of elections. And overturn Citizens United.

  2. Dolores Kelley says:

    Mr. Jaleski has written a thought provoking article and all American adults should read it.
    His insights are well founded!
    As a former healthcare professional, I support his argument for universal healthcare.

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