- Health Care, Drugs & Insurance
Record Medicare Fraud Shows Why We Need Universal Health Care
Avoiding Universal Health Care Only Subsidizes Private Sector Profits
Medicare and Medicaid are single-payer health care programs that were created in the 1960s to ensure that the elderly and the poor could seek medical care. Taxpayer dollars go to reimburse doctors and medical professionals who treat the individuals who are enrolled in these two programs. Unfortunately, allowing profit-seeking private sector medical professionals to bill the government for services rendered tends to lead to various abuses, ranging from inflated prices to outright fraud.
According to CNN, the largest-ever Medicare fraud bust just went down in the United States, leading to the arrest of 243 people in 17 cities. The arrestees, which include 46 doctors and nurses, plus many pharmacists, allegedly bilked the government of over $700 million. How did this happen?
Many critics blame lax oversight of Medicare and Medicaid billing for leading to fraud and waste. Simply put, it is too easy for doctors and clinics to bill the government for whichever services they please. Sometimes, doctors and clinics perform unnecessary services and tests to pad their income. Other times, they charge the government for services and tests that were never performed at all. Patients are often in the dark, relying blindly on the doctors' expertise. With the demand for medical care being highly inelastic, it is hard for patients to ascertain whether they are being treated efficiently or billed fairly.
Just as with higher education, the federal government has created a big problem by subsidizing private sector profit-seekers rather than insisting on government-run care. In the name of consumer freedom and competition, we have allowed the private sector to provide the bulk of America's health care. Unfortunately, instead of reducing health care costs, this system has helped the price of health care skyrocket since the 1950s. Even adjusted for inflation, per capita health care spending has at least quadrupled over the past fifty years. The situation is similar in higher education, where no-questions-asked student loans gave colleges and universities the ability to pursue unchecked growth...and then raise their tuition rates to help maintain it later.
Knowing that the government will pay, and give little scrutiny to the bill, has led to doctors, clinics, and hospitals overcharging for care. This has transferred over to affect patients who are not enrolled in either Medicare or Medicaid, forcing them to pay outrageous out-of-pocket costs. Forcing everyone to purchase health insurance will not fix this problem, for doctors and clinics know that insurance companies have deep pockets. As long as Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance companies will pay without complaint, profit-seeking medical practitioners will have an incentive to overcharge.
Universal health care is the only leviathan that can rein in this out-of-control state of affairs. Just as public K-12 education has ably served America's youth and kept costs from bankrupting the nation, public health care can ensure the health of America's citizens without bankrupting taxpayers. We uphold public K-12 educators to a high standard of performance and have developed multiple layers of supervision and accountability. Despite countless complaints, the system works. Most of our nation's leaders are the products of public schools. There is not one criticism of universal health care that has not also been a criticism of public K-12 education.
But how many Americans send their kids to public school? Say what you want, but the system works. It ain't always fun, but it works. And I say that as a public high school economics teacher. We created a government leviathan to ensure a timely delivery of decent-quality education to millions of diverse children and teenagers of varying backgrounds and abilities...and it worked. It will also work in terms of health care, and many doctors agree.