In the current U.S. healthcare system, every medical decision involves the doctor, the patient, and the insurer. As a large majority of Americans have private health insurance coverage, doctors have to deal with each of those insurance companies which consumes their valuable time that could have been devoted to providing quality patient care. Providers often consider medical billing outsourcing to meet documentation requirements for on-time reimbursement. The democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives recently announced “Medicare for all” legislation that would replace almost all private health insurance. “Medicare for All” proposal was made by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the year 2017.
Predictions were made that moving American health care to a single-payer system in the U.S. would provide diverse benefits, including savings in trillions of dollars over 10 years.
According to Pramila Jayapal, Progressive Caucus co-chair, “Americans are literally dying because they can’t afford insulin or they can’t get the cancer treatment they need. Americans are going bankrupt. Combining all coverage into one program would cut administrative costs and let Medicare set doctors’ fees and negotiate drug prices.”
In its press release, National Nurses United discussed the key highlights of Medicare for All Act of 2019 which include:
- Universal coverage for every resident of this country
- No co-pays or deductibles for any part of the program
- Long term care for the elderly as well as the disabled
- Two-year transition period – everyone over 55 and under 19 would be fully covered by Medicare in the first year after enactment; and two years after enactment all Americans would be covered
- Drug pricing reforms that drastically reduce the high costs of prescription medications in the country
- Improving health care in rural and underserved communities through providing a special projects fund devoted to the building and staffing of new health care facilities in rural and underserved areas.
This new proposal also provides opportunity to negotiate as a big group against the pharmaceutical companies to bring down those prices. It also covers almost all aspects of patient care, including primary care, hospital and outpatient services, prescription drugs, dental, vision, audiology, women’s reproductive health services, maternity and newborn care.
When it comes to public response, January 2019 poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 71% support the idea; but when told it would eliminate private insurers or that it’d require most Americans to pay more taxes, just 37% expressed support. However, it is expected that most Americans will come around to Medicare, when they understand that they will still have access to their preferred doctors and hospitals under the government-run plan.
Key Reasons for Doctors to Support This Single-Payer System
A recent blog published in the hill.com provides certain reasons for doctors to join this program.
Improved patient care and less documentation work
Along with providing patient care, physicians have to focus on documentation with EHR, medical bills as well as insurance authorization, which restricts them from developing a better relationship with patients. It has been reported that the average physician spends about three weeks per year on administrative tasks, which reduces time for patient’s healthcare. With Medicare for All, physicians just have to work with a single payer – the federal government, with reduces their documentation headaches related to insurance companies. They can spend more time with their patients.
Equal access to healthcare
Shocking injustices and disparities still persist for Americans while accessing healthcare. This single payer program or Medicare for All establishes health care as a basic human right, regardless of where patients live, what they earn, or what they look like. With such a program, minority communities will become the majority of the U.S. population, which stops inequities in access to health care.
Reproductive healthcare benefits
hill.com reports that 40% of Americans do not have $400 for an emergency, and the Hyde Amendment has made safe, legal abortion inaccessible to millions. Medicare for All provides comprehensive benefits including the full range of reproductive health services. With this proposal, states can’t block qualified health care providers from delivering any critical health services. It integrates abortion and contraception into health care, rather than dividing them for other treatment options.
It is expected that in the days to come, more details will be available on how this program directs hospitals to protect patient-to-nurse ratios and redirect physician workloads to protect patients and strengthen health outcomes. Patients will be given priority, making health justice a core value of the U.S. health care system.
Doctors Concerned about Revenue
Medicare for All is expected to simplify hospital payments by funding them through global budgets other than the current patient-by-patient payments, saving billions more in administrative costs. However, reimbursement for health care providers is a concern with this program. According to a libertarian think-tank study, Bernie Sanders’s proposal would cut payments to providers such as hospitals and doctors by 40 percent. The current U.S. insurance system works in such a way that
- about half the country is receiving private insurance through their employer
- millions more rely on a government programs such as Medicare, Obamacare, or Medicaid
- another 30 million or so Americans have no insurance
With Sanders’s single payer plan, it is proposed to move every American in the country onto a single government-run insurer that charges no deductibles or premiums. According to Blahous’s report, such a change will massively increase government expenditures – as much as $33 trillion by 2031. Adopting such a system would have significant implications for taxes, patient choice, doctors’ salaries and hospital revenue.