Medicare for All Proponents Refer to National Movement Building Pressure

Medicare National Movement Building Pressure | Image Credit:
Medicare National Movement Building Pressure | Image Credit:

“A growing number of individuals are realising that we do not want private insurance firms to run our healthcare system.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders reiterated this weekend at The Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont, the sobering facts and figures regarding healthcare, one of his most passionately pursued causes, which were no doubt well-known to many of the progressive champions in attendance.

Americans spend twice as much on healthcare per capita as citizens of other affluent nations, yet their life expectancy is “substantially lower” as a result.

Each year, almost half a million Americans file for bankruptcy as a result of medical debt.

Over one-third of healthcare expenditures are devoted to administrative overhead rather than providing medical treatment.

Dr. Deborah Richter, however, thinks the Gathering demonstrated a resurgence in the movement for a government-funded healthcare system is on the way, despite the well-known state of the American healthcare system and the current political environment, in which the fight for Medicare for All has been relatively “quiet,” as one advocate put it.

Richter, who made a presentation about efforts to bring government-funded healthcare to Vermont, said that there is growing bipartisan anger over a lack of transparency about healthcare prices, the denial of claims by private insurers, and the enormous profits made by insurance companies while an estimated 98 million American adults skip or delay medical appointments to avoid an unaffordable bill. All of these issues are driving people to demand change.

“Like the remainder of the three-day conference, Richter’s address was livestreamed. Walter Cronkite famously observed that the U.S. healthcare system is neither healthy nor caring, nor a system.” “It remains true even after several decades. That, though, is probably the bad news. The good news is that we can provide full coverage for every American and Vermonter without raising our existing spending by a single dime.”

Richter compared the costs of healthcare administration at Duke University Hospital Medical Centre, which has 1,600 billing clerks and 957 beds, with a Canadian hospital that has 1,200 beds and only seven billing clerks. He claimed that the American healthcare system costs twice as much as those in other wealthy nations.

According to her, the number of healthcare managers in the United States has increased by almost 4,000% since 1970, whereas the number of doctors has only increased by 200%.

In order to maximise their own profits, insurers are increasingly rejecting claims as a result of the disparity.

“After her talk, Richter told Common Dreams that she was receiving complaints about Medicare from people who were pretty much Republican and more conservative in their views. They were complaining about things not getting covered by Medicare,” Richter said, referring specifically to Medicare Advantage, which is billed as a more benefit-rich alternative to traditional Medicare, but whose participating private insurers routinely deny claims and overcharge the government, costing taxpayers $140 billion annually.

Richter is the chair of Vermont Health Care for All and practices primary care. She said she often hears from patients who feel that they need to “jump through all kinds of hoops in order to receive a surgery or a prescription or anything.” And these days, almost everyone is saying that to you… All of those are the kindling we need to reignite this movement.”

“It’s the benefit of witnessing things fall apart right in front of your eyes,” she continued.

Primary care physicians are quitting their jobs in large numbers in Vermont and around the nation due to the broken healthcare system. They are angry about the bureaucracy imposed by profit-driven insurance corporations, which requires them to obtain authorization before performing some procedures.

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Physicians are spending their days “having to deal with prior authorizations and having to deal with paperwork to justify that you deserve to be paid for the services you render,” according to Richter. This is because insurers place a higher value on surgeries and other procedures than on the preventative healthcare management offered by primary care physicians. “You can understand how you wind up taking your computer home to complete your records when you’re seeing 16 to 20 patients a day, each of whom has their own massive bureaucracy. It has become disastrous that medical students are aware of this and are not selecting [primary care].

Medicare for All proponent Wendell Potter recalled that while he was employed in the for-profit health insurance sector, an executive told him that the biggest threat to the company was the potential for employers, who foot the bill for insurance plans for about half of all insured Americans, to realise that the sector isn’t doing enough to guarantee that people receive the healthcare for which they pay an average of $477 a month in premiums.

“The executive was questioned, ‘What keeps you up at night?'” And he mentioned disintermediation,” stated Potter, who formerly held communications positions with the major health insurance providers Humana and Cigna before quitting to support Medicare for All. “He predicted that employers in particular would start to doubt the benefits of using large insurance carriers to cut out the middlemen. However, they act as a middleman and pocket an increasing amount of the money we spend on healthcare.”

A different panel discussed pricing transparency in healthcare, a topic that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has supported in conjunction with Medicare for All in an effort to lower patient costs under the present system.

The Healthcare Prices Revealed and Information to Consumers Explained (PRICE) Transparency Act 2.0 (S. 3548), which Sanders introduced earlier this year with Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), would make all cash prices and negotiated rates between healthcare plans and providers available to patients.

In 2021, healthcare pricing transparency became a legal requirement, as Patient Rights Advocate’s founder and chair Cynthia Fisher noted during the Gathering. However, a large number of hospitals disregarded the pricing transparency regulation that the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalised under the Trump administration; some even filed lawsuits to overturn the rule, which they lost.

Fisher told Common Dreams that her organisation continues to receive medical bills “above the contracted rates that are in place currently,” even after more than three years. “The insurance business has made the files very tough for anybody to read and comb through,” she added, adding that just 35% of hospitals publish all of their price data online for patients to view.

Fisher said that because patients are compelled to schedule medical operations without knowing how much they would cost out of pocket or how much another hospital may charge for the same service, they become victims of the equivalent of “extortion” under the for-profit healthcare system.

Fisher stated, “We have to sign a blank cheque every time we receive service.” “We’re giving up the ability to receive an upfront disclosure of those costs… We also give up the right to object and declare that we must pay them whatever they decide to charge us.”

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Fisher related the tale of a woman in Colorado who, prior to having a hysterectomy, was only given an estimate of the cost; her insurance informed her that, on average, she would have to pay a $500 copay and that the treatment would cost an estimated $5,000 in total.

In actuality, Fisher explained, “the hospital had a lien on her home, the doctor charged $9,000 out-of-network, and the insurance company refused the claim because she couldn’t pay the $74,000 price.”

After assisting the patient in locating the hospital price file, the Patient Rights Advocate discovered that the operation “was in fact closer to $5,000.” Indeed, that ought to have been reported,” Fisher clarified. “With her, it took us around four or five months to remove the lien off her home. However, she was empowered, rescued, and protected by [transparent] prices, and this is taking place all around the nation.”

The organisation has launched an initiative called Power to the Patients, working with well-known singers and artists to raise awareness among Americans about their right to know up front how much their healthcare would cost.

For the organisation, artist Shepherd Ferry created a mural that is now being painted in approximately 50 American cities, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York, by regional artists.

According to Kevin Morra, co-founder of Power to the Patients, millions of Americans have come to feel that “healthcare is not for them,” with 54% of adult Americans postponing medical care to save money.

“They don’t have the money. They don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they have to choose between paying a medical expense and their rent. During the Gathering, Morra said. Individuals are consciously choosing not to seek medical attention or to undergo these non-discretionary procedures. And when nondiscretionary turns becomes discretionary, this nation’s infrastructure problems become very acute.”

In the Q&A portion of the senior healthcare panel, both patients and healthcare professionals raised their hands and related personal accounts of how “demoralising” it can be to battle insurance companies to get prescription drugs and procedures covered; doctors are “stripped of [their] professionalism,” and patients must convince the companies that they must pay for certain services.

Potter agreed with Richter that proponents of Medicare for All are “regrouping,” especially in regards to the concerns of enhancing traditional Medicare by adding dental and vision coverage and shielding the programme through Medicare Advantage “from creeping, almost galloping, privatisation by big insurance companies.”

“A growing number of individuals are realising that we do not want private insurance firms to run our healthcare system,” stated Potter. “Private corporations have dominated so much of their access to care and have developed enormously over the previous few years.”

Ellen Oxfeld of Vermont Health Care for All inspired other Gathering attendees from the crowd.

According to Oxfeld, “the left grows quite fragmented.” “And one subject that I believe we can all agree on is Medicare for All.” Though I am aware that it won’t happen tomorrow, each person in this room has a story regarding healthcare, and those tales highlight our cause by highlighting the issues with our absurd for-profit healthcare system and its needless intermediaries.

“I’m going to suggest that we can get there,” she said.


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