A new letter to Rep. Amodei
It’s been a few months since my last open letter to you, but this time I’m writing at your request. You seemed perplexed at your recent town hall when a member of the audience asked why health care in the United States can’t be more like the single-payer health care system she experienced when working in Australia. She told you the Australian model is “far and above a better system,” claiming more people are covered at less cost. You sounded intrigued and asked Nevadans with information about why single-payer health care works to provide it to you. I’m happy to oblige.
Let’s begin with the structure of our health care system, which is unlike any other in the world—and not in a good way. Did you know we spend far more of our Gross Domestic Product on health care (17.8 percent in 2015) than any other developed country? We also have the worst health outcomes. Don’t take my word for these shocking facts. They’re easily Googled from solid sources and are widely known and accepted by health researchers everywhere. Your health policy staff can confirm this information in about five minutes, tops.
In fact, I just looked at a recent health expenditure chart from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that shows Australia spends the least per capita of 35 developed countries on health care at $4,420 (11.4 percent of GDP) while the United States spends the most, at $9,451. Then I quickly discovered that Australia’s health outcomes are considerably better than the United States. For example, people in Australia can expect to live longer with far less disease than our citizens. Your town hall participant was definitely on the right track when she suggested you consider Australia as a model.
Single-payer systems work better than our fragmented private insurance structure wherever you look. Private health insurance is supposed to thrive in a competitive marketplace, but the reality is we are at the mercy of corporations that constantly merge and morph in a quest to corner the marketplace and maximize their profits. Before Obamacare, they did everything they could to exclude potentially expensive customers, charging them prohibitive prices if there was even a hint of a pre-existing condition.
Experts estimate the United States spends about a third of every health care dollar on administrative costs involved with insurance billing and marketing, twice as much as our Canadian neighbors. We don’t regulate prices, either, as most countries do, except through our publicly financed health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Did you know we are one of just two countries in the world that allow drug companies to advertise directly to consumers? Or that most countries strictly control drug prices? Our political system has been so compromised by pharmaceutical campaign contributions and high-paid lobbyists that Congress specifically banned Medicare from negotiating with drug companies when they approved Medicare Part D.
As you and I inch towards the magic age of 65, it’s comforting to know that Medicare will protect us from medical bankruptcy caused by a sudden serious illness. We may choose to purchase add-on insurance to further insulate ourselves from medical costs as we join millions of older Americans who benefit from single-payer health care provided by our government since 1965. While other countries started with a single-payer system like Medicare, or Medicaid for low-income and disabled Americans, they gradually expanded to a single-payer system for everyone. It just makes sense.
Now that the single-payer health care system has caught your attention, I join your constituents in hoping you will become our champion in Congress, advocating for replacing Obamacare with quality, single-payer health care for everyone. Maybe you can explain it to Senator Heller, too.