Tennesseans for health-care reform are in a frustrating position. Neither of our senators will support a public-plan option despite many polls showing 65-70 percent of people favor such an option. They will debate none of the reasons for their opposition, only giving the same tired rhetoric. It has nothing to do with private enterprise and the free market concept or they would not be voting bailouts for corporate America.
An expensive private health insurance plan does nothing for anyone above basic Medicare-plus-a-supplement. A top-of-the-line Cigna or Blue Cross policy patient gets the same hospital room, surgeries, drugs, doctors, and follow-up care as a traditional Medicare-plus-a-supplement patient, though the private plans cost much more and cause many more paperwork headaches.
Medical care is already rationed in America by the private plans and their pre-authorization demands, ever-changing drug formulary restrictions, and their "participating doctor" panels that often keep you from going to the doctor of your choice. The biggest cause of rationing in America is income. But, if you have enough money, you can get what you want. A traditional Medicare-plus-a-supplement patient has the fewest restrictions on what I can do for them. From an insurance standpoint, they are my favorite patient. Traditional Medicare does not ration.
Surely there are enough concerned Tennesseans who realize that the only way out of our health-care crisis is to establish a nonprofit public insurance plant, run by the public, and funded in great part by capturing some of the $180-360 billion that goes to the private companies annually as overhead and shareholder dividends. There is already enough money spent on health care to fund universal coverage.
Call, e-mail, and/or send letters to our Senators (Alexander 202-224-4944/Corker 202-224-3344) and make them understand that they are not our parents in deciding what is "best for us." Demand rational health care reform with a public-plan option.
Mark E. Green, MD, Maryville