Savings, not socialism, is aim of reform

Posted Feb. 12, 2010, at 7:29 p.m.

The opponents of health care reform shout about socialism — big government is taking away our constitutional, guaranteed freedoms, our individual rights. Do these critics realize that the excessive and rapidly growing cost of health care is largely due to the fact that health care corporations continue to be driven by the greed for profit?

Therefore, when private corporations, or individuals, fail to live up to their constitutional responsibility, isn’t the government forced to intervene to protect the freedom of its citizens by creating new laws and programs?

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a leader of moderate Republicans for health reform, is caught between her loyalty to the people of Maine and the health insurance companies. She received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from health care industries. (There may well be other senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who have also received such campaign contributions.) She is unwilling even to support a public option that would give millions of Americans the choice of purchasing government-run insurance.

The best option for health reform is a single-payer plan. It will both control costs and cover everyone. Instead of paying premiums to private for-profit insurance companies like Aetna, CIGNA and Wellpoint, all payments are deposited into one public pool.

Payments will be the same or less than are now being paid. Estimates are that $400 billion a year will be saved in administrative overhead, waste and profits. Everyone is covered — cradle to grave.

An insurance card guarantees the holder to see any doctor, any hospital, anywhere in the country.

No bills. No co-pays. No deductibles. No more bankruptcies from medical bills. No longer will 60 Americans die each day due to lack of health insurance — as they do now, according to an Institute of Medicine report.

Since Congress is unwilling to accept a single-payer plan, it has a responsibility to support the public option, a government-run health insurance program available to two groups — those who lack employer-provided health insurance, and employees of small businesses. By competing with plans from private health care providers, the public option would keep private insurers honest, force them to cut the cost of their plans, and avoid losing customers.

Those who cry about socialism should remember that the “good old days” have passed when many Maine school districts and private employers provided 100 percent coverage to employees and their immediate families.

Now a large amount of a family’s salary supplements an employer’s group plan. For every office visit, according to CIGNA, a $20 co-pay is required, $25 for a specialist and $100 to use the emergency room.

But that is not all. If a participant does not use one of their “in-network” providers, there are just two options: sign up for a considerably more expensive program, or pay the full cost of the “out-of-network” provider. The critics who look at health care in so-called socialist countries fail to observe that the above drawbacks American families experience with private insurers are similar to those in some countries where health care is fully provided by the government.

The key advantage of a single-payer plan is that even by paying higher taxes, an individual or family’s insurance cost will be considerably lower.

Another advantage is that the rapid and dramatic increase in health care costs will be curbed and the services created under such a plan can avoid the flaws of existing programs.

And coverage will not be canceled when the cap of the private insurer has been reached.

Therefore, as the deficit continues to skyrocket, a health reform program that reduces individual and family costs while improving health care for all will benefit every one of us.

David O. Solmitz of Waterville teaches at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. Previously, he taught at Madison High School and Thomas College.

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