I have finally found a policy President Trump supports with which I can agree. And it is about one of the nation’s most divisive issues: health care. Following the total collapse of the Republicans’ alternative to the Affordable Care Act, perhaps we need to back up and hear what the president said about the sort of legislation he really wants. In January of this year, he made the following pronouncement during an interview with the Washington Post: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us. ...People covered under the law can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form, much less expensive and much better.”
Trump’s proposed system would be a significant improvement over what is called Obamacare, and a thousand times better than the disastrous House proposal. Under Trump’s design, every American will be adequately covered by a medically superior system at less cost to both the citizens and the government. People would choose their physicians, and no one would have to shop from state to state for the best deal. I, for one, want to support the President and push Congress to adopt such a plan.
So is there anywhere we can find such a model? Can anyone cite a system that guarantees universal coverage and superior care at significantly lower costs? Many of us already have such a plan! It’s called Medicare, and it covers almost all of our health-related expenses. We get to choose our physicians, have no monthly payments, only a few modest co-payments, and we receive first-rate care.
If you are looking for that sort of coverage, take a gander at what is in place in almost every modern, industrialized nation. In some places it flows from a socialized economic model, and truly is socialized medicine. So, in our investigation we will leave those nations out of our survey, as they are beyond what our national mood could swallow. But in nations with a mixed economy, the medical system in place covers everyone, even tourists and other non-citizens. Physicians and nurses are not on any government payroll, and the hospitals are privately owned and operated. Anyone with the means to seek help outside the system is welcome to pay for it. But their testimony will almost always suggest that in the national system, they receive superior care. What is eliminated is the giant slice of health-related costs that go to insurance companies. Drug costs are also substantially reduced, since a single customer is able to favorably negotiate. And then there are the gigantic corporate salaries!
Consider the costs this system generates wherever it has been tried. Here a sampling of comparative expenditures per person, spelled out in US dollars: Mexico, $916; Japan, $3,035; United Kingdom, $3,309; Australia $3,433; Canada $4,445; Norway, $5,388.
The world’s second most expensive health care system: United States $8,233!
It would be difficult to suggest that US costs are that much higher than any other place in the world because of our superior scientific know-how. In almost every index from infant mortality, to recovery from serious surgery, to life expectancy, we trail other industrialized nations. Most of us probably have relatives or friends who live beyond our shores and who are more than eager to testify about the excellent medical care they regularly experience. While it is true that in some places elective surgery may be somewhat delayed, in terms of technology, the training of providers and the quality of care, these systems are almost universally applauded.
The Democrats who gave us Obamacare were too intimidated to suggest that a better answer would have been a single payer system which might well have resulted from adopting “Medicare for everyone.” In terms of universal coverage, cost containment and superior quality, it may still be the answer to America’s health care dilemma. The best answer to America’s quest for a superior system may be available if we just look either beyond our borders or to the insurance plans our seniors already have.
So President Trump, I stand ready to celebrate with you the adoption of a system that meets all your criteria: insurance for everybody, much less expensive, and much better.