Act in stages
Is health-care reform President Barack Obama's Waterloo? If so, it will be a shame, because the cost, availability and quality of health care are critical issues. It is also a shame because Mr. Obama wants to tackle the issue of why the same medical procedure can cost, let's say, $10,000 in Pennsylvania and $25,000 in Ohio.
The president plans to use guidelines developed by experts (evidence-based medicine). Using this approach should result in considerable savings and improvement in quality, but this is down the road. The problem is, how can we pay for change now?
We should look at how other nations pay for medical care. By most statistical measures, France has medical care superior to ours at a much cheaper price. It is a shared-cost system. Everyone pays for it, employers and employees, and only the very poor are exempted. This is better than taxing the wealthy or taxing the benefits of those who already have insurance.
Health experts have said that any change should be phased in slowly, because of the complex issues involved. Hillary Clinton's plan failed because she tried to do it overnight. The French system was accomplished in incremental stages beginning in 1928. We can't wait that long, but the president could devise a staged plan, tied in with improvements in the economy.
Right now, he could negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare part D and cover the health insurance of those who recently lost their jobs.
Now that's underpaying
Boy, oh, boy, they're coming out of the woodwork now.
Seems the executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters, one Janet Trautwein, thinks that because the government systematically underpays providers by as much as 20 percent through the Medi-plans is a reason to be against government health plans ("Costs Will Increase," July 22 letters). I can see where that would be of great concern to normal everyday citizen types like us. Let's take a look at the insurance plan we're dealing with now.
After a five-day stay in a hospital following an accident, I received a breakdown of more than $50,000 in charges from the hospital: Highmark paid a little more than $17,000. Hmmm. Underpaid by more than 60 percent!
I'll bet that is a great deal for us, though by Ms. Trautwein's reasoning, triple bad.
Ms. Trautwein, if a family of four pays an additional $1,788 in premiums because insurance companies are underpaid 20 percent (a figure she cited), how much are we paying in excess premiums for 60 percent underpayments?