Healthcare For All
by Dr. Mary Mahern

I have been a family physician for 16 years. It breaks my heart to learn that according to an Institute of Medicine report 18,000 people in the U.S. die each year because they don't have health insurance. When I was in Residency training there was talk of 35 million unisured in the U.S. That figure now tops 45 million. And that figure doesn't even touch the millions more who have insurance that is woefully inadequate.

I have to admit I was a proponent of a national health program for all Americans, even before I went to medical school. I have never joined the American Medical Association because of its role in derailing President Truman's efforts to create a national health insurance system back in 1945. As an advocate of national health care, I was in the minority of physicians back in 1988 but now the health care delivery "system" is such a chaotic mess that I believe a majority of physicians are now ready to sign on to a national plan that covers everyone. Certainly polls show that public opinion is in favor of a government-guaranteed health insurance for all.

How do we do it? We let the federal government take over and expand Medicare to cover all Americans. How do we afford it? We leave the insurance companies out of the solution, entirely. The profits that they have been making in siphoning off our resources can be used to provide care. It's really a fairly simple idea. It's an idea that works in so many countries around the world where health care is a right for all citizens that is simply taken for granted. Those countries do it spending 40% less than we are already spending per capita!

How can we do this also? We must insist that every candidate running for federal office address this issue. We want the same great health insurance that members of the U.S. Senate and Congress have. Expand their plan to cover all of us.

I don't think I need to go into just how bad the current system is. It really isn't working for anyone anymore, except for insurance company investors and federal employees, that is. Years ago when I would warn patients about the high cost of certain sophisticated test or treatments I wanted to prescribe I would routinely hear people say, "That's okay I have great health insurance." I haven't heard anyone say that for such a long time that I was surprised when a new patient recently said that to me. I asked what kind of insurance she had and she replied, "My husband works for the federal government."

Apparently our federal officials aren't aware of how bad it is for the rest of us. We need to let them know! As a patient myself with a very expensive, high deductible plan, as a small business owner struggling to provide health insurance for my employees, as a physician trying to provide care for so many of my patients with inadequate or no insurance coverage and as a provider of health care, spending ever increasing amounts of money to collect less and less from insurance companies, I see on many levels just how broken our current "system" is. Its time for the Senate and Congress to stop listening to the insurance industry and to listen to the majority of Americans who favor "Medicare for all."

Dr. Mary Mahern, MD
Dr. Clark Brittain, DO

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