Letters to the Editor

Profit-centered health care compromises primary care

Dear Editor,

A large contributor to the U.S. crisis of health care financing and delivery is the administrative bureaucracy of profit-first multi-payer insurances that siphon 31 percent of our health care dollars to profits and excessive overhead costs. The Wall St. Journal (Feb. 14, 2007) has reported that insurance middlemen in the $20 billion annual business of ‘Denial Management’ are employed solely to search for reasons to delay, deny or renege on health claims. The Journal reports that one third of U.S. claims are initially denied, further contributing to inflationary administrative costs.

Journalist T.R. Reid contrasts U.S. health care with that in five other industrialized nations in his documentary ‘Sick Around the World.’ None of the 5 countries he visited — Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan and Great Britain — utilizes for-profit insurance; all pay on average half as much per capita for health care as the U.S., and all have better health care outcomes, longer lives, etc.

Rather than a quality-centered health care system, the U.S. profit-centered model of health care has compromised our primary care infrastructure. At least one hundred overburdened U.S. emergency rooms have closed their doors over the past decade. It was recently reported that University Hospital became the eighth area facility to close its psychiatric unit; at the same time, it maintains a new six-story building on the Fitzsimons campus dedicated solely to billing, processing more than 1,000 different forms for over 1,000 different insurers.

Over 20 federal and state studies, including the Colorado Lewin Group study in 2007, have demonstrated billions of dollars of savings in health care spending, as well as the ability to provide comprehensive health care for all, utilizing a single-risk-pool publicly financed and privately delivered health care system.

The Colorado Guaranteed Health Care Act, House Bill 1273, has been introduced to create the structure for comprehensive reform that guarantees health care for all Coloradans. In addition to streamlining administrative health costs, HB 1273 stipulates annual negotiation of fair reimbursement to all providers; negotiation of prescription drug and medical equipment costs; support for education to address primary care, nursing and other provider shortages; and prioritization of retraining for displaced workers.

In the place of inadequate private insurances that have seen premium increases of more than 100 percent since 2000, the single public-payer model of health insurance separates health coverage from employment, establishes a sliding-scale premium based on income, and permits full choice of health care providers. Read more about the proposed bill at www.HealthCareforAllColorado.org, then urge your legislators to support HB 1273, comprehensive health care for all Coloradans.

Michele Swenson
Denver