Time to demand universal access

According to a recent AARP survey, gathered from more than 400 companies in Washington, the cost of employee health benefits over the last three years increased 32 percent for businesses of all sizes and nearly doubled for small businesses. As a result, many business owners are shifting more of the health-care cost burden to employees.

The huge rise in health-care costs is directly attributable to the insurance premium increases, which are driven by corporate profits. Free market forces have clearly failed us because there is no collective bargaining for the cost of medical treatment, prescription drugs or even health-care premiums. If we expanded the size of the pool of health-care recipients to all the citizens in the state, the cost per recipient would drop significantly because the risk would be spread over the entire population. If we centralized the administration of the health-care program (think Medicare), we would derive the benefits of collective bargaining that is so necessary to keeping costs fair and reasonable.

We should not be misled by insurance industry apologists who claim that mandates, such as prostate screening, are the problem. Such mandates add very little cost to the bottom line of insurance companies. We should also not be led astray by the mantra that “universal health care deprives you of choice.” What choices do employers and employees who cannot afford health care really have? The vast majority of citizens who cannot afford health-care insurance need help. The insurance industry has had its day and reaped its extraordinary profits for too long. Now is the time to unite behind the promise of affordable health care for everyone and tell our elected officials that universal access to medical care is long overdue.

Marshall F. Goldberg, M.D.

Oak Harbor

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