I had a long conversation with my favorite physician, who has operated on me twice successfully. He is an incredibly kind person without an ounce of greed or pretense. Like other physicians I have spoken to, he spoke eloquently about the terrible times he consistently has with private health insurance companies.
While he praises Medicare for its simplicity and certainty, he has absolutely nothing positive to say about private insurers. They take up huge amounts of time of him and his staff, trying in every possible way to deny services to their customers (his patients) and also to pay as little as possible to him. His endless struggles with the insurance companies make his life miserable. Meanwhile all he cares about is giving his patients the very best care and not making them suffer because of their insurance carriers.
Like so many of us he sees the need for major reforms of our health care system, but remains pessimistic about what Congress and President Obama will eventually deliver. He is incredulous at how executives of private insurers make vast amounts of money while making physicians and their patients suffer endless annoyances and negative impacts on health care. And they get away with making people pay more and more money for worse and worse insurance.
He also has many stories about patients that do not take medications for long term chronic conditions because they cannot afford prescriptions. He gives out as many samples that he can get, is angry that people in other nations pay much less for brand name drugs, and feels terrible for his patients because the US health care system has let them down.
What would be the ideal solution to the current health care mess? My doctor believes that opening up Medicare to everyone would be wonderful, and the system could be opened up immediately. I totally agree. There is no sound reason for Congress to protect the private health insurance industry. But of course they always have and always will because it is the source of huge amounts of money for political campaigns.
While no one should be forced into Medicare, just making it available to all who want it would be fair. If private colleges compete with public ones, and private for profit hospitals compete with nonprofit ones, why shouldn't health insurance companies be put in a similar position?