Thank you for the excellent piece on the disastrous United States healthcare situation (“Healing American Healthcare,” by Ed Eichhorn and Michael Hutchison). The article points out the tremendous disparity between the U.S. and all other industrialized countries, the strange history of our healthcare system, and the tremendous cost for which we get much less in return.
We also have constant anxiety about the availability of healthcare, and more than half of U.S. bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses. This does not happen in countries with a universal healthcare system. Everyone is aware of the constantly increasing cost of insurance, co-pays, and deductibles, and the huge increase in drug prices since there are no limitations on profits in this system. Millions remain with no insurance at all, and safety net hospitals have had to close.
Doctors are also suffering in this system, which directs huge payments to corporate middlemen at every level. Physicians are suffering burnout with increased bureaucratic demands that remove them from direct patient care and dwindling payments from insurance. Businesses also suffer from having to deal with employee healthcare as in no other country. As pointed out in the article, the American people want universal healthcare. We are happy with Medicare, and a universal plan would have tremendous cost savings: as noted in the article, 3 percent administrative costs vs. the current 14 percent would translate into billions. The current system is maintained by corporate influence, corruption, and misinformation.
For further information and action I recommend physicians for a National Health Program at www.pnhp.org, which has been advocating for single payer and publishing data in the field for many years. In New Jersey there is the New Jersey Universal Healthcare Coalition at www.universalhealthcarenj.org. There is currently a bill in Congress, HR 1384, and bills in process in New Jersey also, since states can also take action. Health care is a human right. Universal government-funded healthcare would save both lives and money. Let’s go ahead!
Linda G. Gochfeld, MD
Witherspoon Street, Princeton
Editor’s note: On March 22 Governor Murphy announced that the state would take control of the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. Cathy Bennett, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Healthcare Association issued the following statement:
“Health insurance helps individuals access the care they need, at the right time and in the right healthcare setting. That is essential to ensure better health for the people of New Jersey. We applaud the Murphy administration for its leadership in protecting New Jersey individuals and families by providing these consumer-focused safeguards in our state’s insurance system.
“The proposals for minimum requirements for insurance policies are very important. We’ve seen a rise in plans that require more cost-sharing by the consumer, often leading to surprise medical bills for the patient.
“Covering more people with health insurance and making sure that coverage is adequate for their medical needs is essential to improve health status and begin addressing the affordability concerns in healthcare today.”