OPINION: It’s no surprise Medicare for All outshines the public option

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By ED WEISBART, M.D.
Chair, Physicians for a National Health Program-Missouri

It’s January – so unless you have Medicare, be ready for the annual surprise that you’re starting over at meeting your insurance company’s deductible, before your “insurance” actually starts insuring you. Or be ready for the surprise that your copay has shot up a few bucks. American health care is full of surprises these days.

Be really ready for a surprise when you discover your trip to the emergency room or hospital has unwittingly included care from a physician who isn’t in your insurance company’s network, and your insurance won’t pay a penny toward their bills.

Small comfort to know that you’ve got plenty of company.

NEARLY HALF OF EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS, HOSPITALIZATIONS
Nearly half of all of emergency room visits and hospitalizations among privately insured Americans now include one of these surprises: an additional medical bill for care that was deemed to be “out-of-network” by an insurer. And these bills are frequently large enough to be financial disasters: an average of $628 in the emergency room, and more than $2,000 for a hospitalization.

One way or another, most Americans have had to deal with surprise medical bills.

Compare how these surprises would be addressed under Medicare for All as opposed to a “public option.” Medicare for All would cover every American for all necessary care, including dentistry, eyeglasses, and hearing aids, while eliminating all copays and deductibles. Virtually every hospital and physician would be included, so surprise medical bills would be impossible.

PUBLIC OPTION WOULD DO NOTHING TO PREVENT SURPRISE BILLS
In contrast, the public option would do nothing to prevent surprise bills from emergency visits or hospitalizations, nothing to prevent surprise bills from unbearable deductibles and copayments, and would make our health care system increasingly complex and unsustainable.

If you hate surprises – particularly medical bill surprises – help us fight for Medicare for All. Accept no imitations or faux solutions.

LEARN MORE
For more information, visit pnhp.org, or attend one of these upcoming public sessions on Medicare for All. The programs are free and open to the public.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 7:30 a.m. (St. Louis)
    Family Medicine Grand Rounds: “Medicare for All” at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Kohler Auditorium, 6420 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63117.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26, 7:00 p.m. (Columbia, Mo.)
    Brief presentation and discussion about surprise medical bills at Columbia Public Library, Conference Room A, 100 W. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203.

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