BERNARD COLUMN: Supporting Medicare for All Act

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired corporate executive

As someone who has spent most of his career in healthcare, I support Senate Bill 4204 — the Medicare for All Act of 2022. Congress must seriously consider single payer health insurance which will both add jobs to the economy and provide coverage for all Americans.

Studies have shown that the healthcare status of US citizens is far below that of other democracies. Much of our population lacks insurance or is underinsured, causing them to either forgo or delay needed healthcare services and medications. Further, our current system is administratively inefficient and wasteful.

Providers agree about what they don’t like: insurance company bureaucracy. Tons of unnecessary paperwork, different for each and every payor, preventing them from spending more time directly practicing medicine. Having multiple payors is expensive, while negatively affecting quality of care. 

And the situation is just as bad on the insurance company level. Medicare only runs 2% in administrative/marketing costs, while insurance companies average 12%. That cuts into the money actually spent on delivering healthcare to real live patients.

Having a single payer system simplifies the coding and billing process for doctors. That 10% saved becomes money that can be used to cover the 12% of Americans under 65 who have no insurance, including 14% of Americans 18-64, 27 million people. Plus, despite the fact that about two-thirds of Americans under 65 have private insurance, that does not mean that they are all resting easy when it comes to medical bills; many are underinsured. According to a pre-pandemic analysis, nearly half (43%) of US workers are either uninsured or underinsured. Underinsured is defined as citizens who have out-of-pocket costs more than 10% of their wages or more than 5% for low-income ($52,400 for a family of four), as well as Americans whose deductibles are more than 5% of their income.

One fourth of Americans who are covered by their employer insurance plans are underinsured. And, making the situation even worse, employers are under cost pressures right now due to inflation and the on-coming recession, causing companies to shift more of the premium cost to employees. Deductibles have already risen from 7% of family income in 2007 to 15% in 2020 with no end in sight.

And working age Americans are not faring well financially due to the ever-increasing cost. Three percent have gone bankrupt due to their medical bills. Over a third have used up all of their savings to pay medical expenses, while over a fourth can’t pay their bills for items like heat, food and rent. Healthcare cost pressures have caused 40% to get a lower credit rating.

Worse, many working age Americans are just not getting the care they need. Over a fifth of them refrained from filling prescriptions due to cost (and 34% of the uninsured). Over a third had provider access problems, with the figure much higher for the uninsured (56%). And with rising deductibles, polling shows that the situation will only get worse.

Senate Bill 4204, the Medicare for All Act of 2022, is sponsored by senators from Rhode Island to Hawaii. By covering all Americans via lowering the age of eligibility, it will clearly ameliorate these problems and bring our healthcare financing system into the 21stCentury. Medicare under this bill is comprehensive, i

ncluding all inpatient and outpatient physical and mental health services, long-term and preventive care as well.

Specifically, it will expand existing Medicare, expanding the program to include dental, vision and audiology costs. 4204 will also remove the two-year waiting period for the disabled. Further, the bill cuts Part D prescription expenses. More coverage detail can be found in Title X of the Act.