Alan Stern: Elise Stefanik Does Not Understand Single Payer

I wrote to Rep Elise Stefanik urging her to support HR 676 – essentially Medicare for all. Got a reply today that reveals she DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THIS PROPOSAL. Here’s the essence of her reply:

“While I understand this is a passionate issue for many, I do not support a nationwide Medicare for all Program. I often hear from North Country Veterans who struggle with excessive wait times, unsatisfactory care, and increased bureaucracy at the VA Health Centers. Increasing government’s role in our healthcare system will exacerbate these deficiencies.”

This is a common and distorting mis-statement from opponents of single payer health coverage. What is proposed is not a VA model. Under the existing VA model, Medicare pays for veterans’ care while the VA delivers those services. The proposal under HR 676 is not at all about the delivery of medical services but about PAYING for medical services, the only role the government would have.

It will work as Medicare does. It will be funded and administered in the same manner.  Under Medicare, patients actually have a wider choice of providers than the tightly controlled networks set up by insurance companies. There are tests and procedures like enhanced imaging for breast cancer that private insurance will not cover while Medicare does.

Insurance companies currently rake in approximately 30 cents of every health care dollar we spend and for that we get no benefit. Meanwhile the costs to medical practices of dealing with insurance companies continues to spiral out of control. This is one of the chief drawbacks of the ACA. While it did address many inequalities in our health care, it leaves much to be desired in terms of the economic burden on individuals and businesses for coverage and deductibles.

Meanwhile, the Republican AHCA model Stefank supports does nothing to change this situation. It only shuffles around how usurious healthcare insurance will work and leaves insurance companies in charge of our medical care. Regardless of what the secret Republican plan finally looks like, there is no reason to expect any change in the insurance industry’s long track record of denying coverage, denying some services while requiring others that patients and doctors don’t want or need, placing caps on coverage or imposing mountains of paperwork on medical practitioners.

Rep Stafanik’s reply to me can only be interpreted in two ways.  She is willing to legislate the insurance industry’s control of our health care through either ignorance or loyalty to the powerful lobby.  Either is unacceptable.

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