Vicki Harrison: ‘Public option’ is next step forward to health care for all

Do not forget that we, the American people, have paid for all these hospitals, medical training, advanced science research, and advanced …

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Vicki Harrison, MSN, of Barnard, retired from 45 years in social work and community health nursing, with a subspecialty in mental health and substance abuse.

U.S. health care has to become a human right. Capitalist principles, alias business, was brought in by MDs in the 1990s to “control health care costs.” Health care costs have grown yearly, often in double digits, such that hedge fund investors now purchase U.S. gastroenterology practices, cardiology, neurosurgical and orthopedic medical practices to siphon off the maximum funds in “management fees.” MDs, MBAs, insurers, and all their pals have proven they will never cut costs! The power and money are far too lucrative. We, the U.S. taxpayers built this system. We need to regain it.

About 30% of Vermonters can use their health care freely, live three months longer than they would have died anyway because they will get expensive treatment the rest of us will never receive. Health care is already rationed — these 30% and many on Medicaid. However, it is becoming more difficult for Medicaid patients to find doctors who will treat them, as the reimbursement is the lowest.

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And, if you think you will ever get the $100,000 worth of drugs Mr. Trump received to “cure” his Covid-19, think again. Not only did the main drug cost $95,000, but it is made from fetal tissue. That’s right, abortion product tissue. Since some of you feel science should not benefit from this gain, you would not ethically be able to take this drug. Notice Trump, who claims to support abortion elimination and demonstrates being anti-science, did take this drug, which likely saved him.

Another writer recently described 50% of Vermonters as having impossible health care opportunities. I think it is closer to 60%. I don’t think Medicare Advantage plans with no monthly premium were in that statistic. These plans for folks over age 65 have such frightening billing possibilities with their deductibles, networks, and fine print, that unless you are ready to go bankrupt, or lose your savings and/or home, you don’t access much health care, if any.

Physicians state they have just “discovered” social determinants of health, the body of work community health nurses and many social workers have always considered. MDs state they must be “paid” for supporting their new understanding of these facts. For the past 100 years, nurses have discreetly shared this information to gain improved care for their patients, often enough ignored. Physicians, like so many at the top of the food chain, are well enough reimbursed. This hunger, as the Good Book warns us, never is satiated. Ambition can be guided, but greed must be contained.

The next generation of trained physicians and health care providers will include more women and more minorities. Why, you ask? Because, when the U.S. health care cash cow is shut down, a different group of folk will be interested and eligible. Do not forget that we, the American people, have paid for all these hospitals, medical training, advanced science research, and advanced pharmaceuticals, yet in the last 25 years, the MDs, bringing in their MBAs, turned U.S. health care into the biggest cash cow Planet Earth has ever seen. Business rules for pharmaceuticals, etc., were hijacked in Congress for enormous profit. These horrifying drug commercials have to go! Even Vermont OneCare began advertising on Vermont Public Radio. Reduce our premiums and give us access with those funds! Will they?

Not a chance. If we want health care for all, the so-named “public option” is the only path forward. When Obamacare was negotiated, the doctors union (called the AMA), the pharmacies, hospitals, and insurance companies all fought against this tooth and nail. The “public option” will eliminate profit. This is the initial funds gained in making health care available to more Americans. Regulating the drug companies, the medical supply companies, the laboratories, and the out of network drama come next in Congress. The practice of failing hospitals bringing in outside consultants who milk the hospital for the rest of its value and leave the community hospital in bankruptcy also must stop. Getting the lobbyists out of Congress must occur as well, so we, the people, stand a chance. U.S. tax dollars pay for much of the current health care system. It is time we, the people, regained control.