Government runs the military; it can run healthcare insurance

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I read Mike Mahoney’s Feb. 1 letter and its misstatements of fact with astonishment. If the government can run the military, why does Mr. Mahoney think it can’t run healthcare insurance?

It already does. Medicare, Medicaid, Champva and Tricare are not private, Mr. Mahoney. And, government does it more effectively than the private market.

Medicare in particular has overhead costs of just 3 percent versus up to 20 percent admin/marketing expenses for private insurance firms.

Mr. Mahoney may philosophically disagree, but as a former marketing VP for a national healthcare firm, I would like to see more money spent on care and less on overhead. But, he is not the only one deceiving himself because of ingrained free market beliefs that run contrary to fact.

A few years back when Obamacare was first being proposed, I had breakfast with Jim Marshall of Macon, who was then a congressman. At the table was an elderly decorated war vet.

When Obamacare was discussed, the vet protested that a national insurance program was unconstitutional. I guess he forgot all about the VA system being socialized medicine.

Recently, I had a similar conversation with a retired Air Force officer here who saw nothing wrong with other people having their Medicare privatized (i.e., converted to a voucher program), as suggested by Rep. Price of Atlanta, Trump’s nominee for head of DHHS and, by inference, Mr. Mahoney.

Under the Rep. Price “reform” proposal, sick elderly people would have to find insurance on their own and could be turned down for pre-existing conditions. Just ask a 64-year-old with cancer (who is not eligible for Medicare yet) how easy it would be to find affordable insurance if he could be excluded due to a pre-existing condition? Is that nightmare something we want to extend to all seniors?

Due to space constraints, I will not go into all of the factually challenged assertions (alternate facts?) contained in Mr. Mahoney’s rant. But, here are a few other misstatements:

1. The implication that private insurance is going up, but everything is getting more expensive. All valid sources indicate that healthcare expenses (including private insurance) are going up at a much greater rate.

2. The statement that Obamacare is solely a Democrat idea. The facts are that the idea is a Republican one, coming out of a GOP think tank, the conservative Heritage Foundation, back in the 1990s as a response to “Hillarycare.” It was championed by Senator Bob Dole and ended up as Romneycare [in Massachusetts]. That is why Mitt could not attack Obamacare effectively in 2012.

3. Contrary to Mahoney’s rant, the FDA process protects us all from dangerous medicine being prescribed. It may be too careful and detailed a process, but that has nothing at all to do with health insurance. It’s like saying we should cut the Border Patrol because we don’t like the National Weather Service.

4. Mr. Mahoney seems to want the Feds out of healthcare, but then he hypocritically wants federal legislation capping judgments to people harmed by malpractice as determined by a court trial of our peers. Tort reform is currently in place in many states, including neighboring Florida. Healthcare costs are still sky high. And, once again, studies have shown that defensive medicine is not the primary driver of cost escalation in healthcare.

5. The statement that Mahoney lost faith in government when the Office of Personnel Management was hacked is very telling. Did he lose all faith in Home Depot, Target and other corporations when their systems were hacked?

6. Yes, obesity is a major factor in healthcare costs. This fact has nothing to do with the VA, ACA, Medicare, Medicaid and other governmental insurance programs versus private insurance.

7. If Mr. Mahoney understood anything at all about how insurance works, he would understand that to avoid “cherry picking” (known in the field as “adverse selection”), it is necessary that all people participate in the ACA or any other national insurance program. If not, only the sickest will join, driving up costs per enrollee. That is why private insurance companies are currently telling our GOP Congress not to leave them holding the bag via pre-existing conditions and so on. It is also why Speaker Ryan is talking about “access” to care and not coverage for all Americans.

8. Contrary to Mr. Mahoney’s assertion, Mr. Browning does not appear to agree with his conclusions about the ACA. The ACA is lacking, especially versus Medicare for All, but it still covers 20 million people. That makes it better then what came before for a lot of people, if not Mr. Mahoney personally.

Per a recent Gallup survey, veterans and Medicare beneficiaries have a much higher rate of satisfaction with health insurance versus those covered by private plans. Isn’t it time we extend a government program, Medicare, to cover all Americans?

Jack Bernard
Peachtree City, Ga.

[Bernard is former Director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia and a retired health firm executive.]