I wrote this article nearly three years ago and many of the problems still remain. We are nowhere near universal healthcare. Medical professionals are underpaid and overworked. Large swaths of our population have little or no access to healthcare. Too many children remain uninsured. Health insurance for most of us is out of reach forcing many to rely on government programs. Most importantly, the cost to the taxpayer is great – our medical costs are by far the highest in the world.
A US Medical Corps is Needed
We have been arguing for a national healthcare program for decades, with resolve but still no resolution, just both Democrats and Republicans in typical partisan gridlock. From what I see, we will be squabbling over Medicare, Medicaid, and health care for many more years to come because each proposed program has been fraught with problems: too expensive, too much fraud, too little care. And as we continue to argue about what to do, health care costs are soaring at an alarming rate.
I believe it is time for a government medical federal-level agency, with cabinet appointments. Much like the Veterans Administration, but expanded to include more people that will, at first, provide healthcare services for millions of eligible, low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities with the ultimate goal of replacing the current insurance-based programs with direct medical care. I’d call this proposed government program US Medicorp.
A Medical Care Corps – Exempt from Malpractice Lawsuits
One solution for national health care is to “do it ourselves,” a government medical care “army” program that recruits young men and women from our high schools and colleges. They would study in medical schools, and in return for their tuition, room, and board, they’d be required to serve six years of active service and two years of reserve service in the US Medical Corps. Their wage would depend on their years of service and the type of work they undertake. These medical professionals – doctors, surgeons, nurses, medical technicians – would be placed all over the country in hospitals, in high-tech mobile medical units, in elder-care facilities, and in the neighborhood, clinics to provide much-needed firsthand medical care. Most importantly, under government protection, they would be exempt from malpractice lawsuits – another reform that must be addressed.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as “Obamacare,” was a step in the right direction toward national health care. But, in reality, it is still health insurance, instead of national health care, and it is too expensive because it places a huge insurance bureaucracy between the patient and the caregiver with little or no improvement in health care. This is not a surprise considering the intense lobbying by the insurance industry. Hence, the ACA relies heavily on insurance companies, which complain of losses and are pulling out state insurance markets, or they raise rates. This is wrong.
Single-Payer Systems Are No Better
A single-payer insurance program sounds better but it too will be plagued by high costs, fraud, and abuse that third-party payer systems bring upon themselves. The problem is that the patient is not paying and is not concerned with the costs for treatment, and the caregiver, because treatment costs will be mandated by the third-party payer (insurance), can raise, or inflate the cost, or even worse charge for more services that are not needed. Look at the billions of dollars wasted on fraud and the costs associated with finding, and rooting out, these criminals. A recent AARP article reported $60 billion in Medicare fraud per year! Hence, health insurance companies do not work if this is the sole method, we are relying upon to provide health care, not to mention improving the overall health of our country. Third-party payer programs are not cost-effective.
Who would be covered in this proposed Medicorp?
- All children up to the age of 26, which is the physically healthiest segment of our population
- Those who are unable to care for themselves will receive coverage, including the cognitively and physically disabled
- All people over age 65 or 66 and the elderly who have no other means of support aside from Social Security. (This entry age may be raised if the person working.)
- All people who fall under the poverty level
The rest of the population would rely on traditional health care and be covered by private insurances. This coverage would be provided under their business and union plans, which we need to encourage. Insurance companies will be providing plans for working people, who work for large and medium-sized businesses, and unions that can pool thousands of individuals for insurance. Businesses, especially large employers, that are paying below a living wage or reduced hours to avoid providing insurance plans, need to be taxed to cover to cost of their employees using the Medicorp program.
Insurance companies, if left alone and not forced to insure those who cannot pay for the private coverage, will return to profitability without depending on government bailouts or assistance. We do not need to support private industry or force the private industry into programs that are doomed to fail.
I do not believe we, as a nation, are both ready and willing to have universal health care (socialized medicine), or a one-payer system thrust upon us quite yet… but we cannot set aside the goals of free universal health care. Whether a Medical Corps, expanded Medicare and Medicaid, single-payer programs, and better insurance programs working together with private health care, it is time to propose new programs that will save billions of dollars while providing the best health care in the world. The United States must embrace the best of each system.