We are fortunate in southern Vermont and southern New Hampshire to have access to the free Business Journal, published monthly and full of interesting and helpful articles about many business topics, especially small local businesses. In the July/August 2017 issue, the first page as one opened the magazine prominently featured a Letter to the Editor by John K. Herpel, MD, FACS, of Acworth, NH. Dr. Herpel had practiced medicine for 20 years but took early retirement at age 54, some years ago, due to the “overly frustrating” American health care system.
Kudos to Dr. Herpel ending his letter this way (and to The Business Journal for printing it):
“What an astonishing release of American capitalism were it to be freed from this appallingly expensive and wasteful bondage. Medicare for all is the answer, like Canada. Canadian people dying in line waiting for care is a lie. (We have Canadian friends and relatives who will vouch for this.) Americans dying for lack of coverage is the truth. I’m not saying that Medicare is perfect – far from it. As a physician, I had some battles with them, which finally cemented my decision to retire. But it’s way beyond time the American people realize that the private sector, given so many years to succeed, has failed. There is no perfect system. We just have to choose the one with the least flaws. Our government, bought and paid for by insurance industry lobbyists, will make sure we choose the one with the most flaws.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has now unveiled his Medicare for All plan – with 16 co-sponsors. 30 national organizations and unions also support it. While financing the plan will be a challenge, Sanders also released a six-page document with funding ideas.
If dozens of other countries around the world can develop highly successful and cost-effective government-run health care systems – which they have – then surely we can as well. It should be noted that other nations use different ways to provide health care to their citizens. Not all are single-payer; some follow a more “shared responsibility” model, and so on. (Steven Hill explains this well in Europe’s Promise.) This variety further demonstrates that options are available “out there” that American lawmakers can take advantage of as they look seriously at this very urgent issue.
How does Sanders’ proposal relate to other proposals that attempt to improve the ACA (Obamacare)? This is not an either-or situation. It is highly unlikely that Sanders’ bill will succeed in the near future. But one of the primary reasons for unveiling it is to begin a robust, creative discussion about the issue. In the meantime, the ACA needs improving – as soon as possible. Some improvements may well be possible until more comprehensive proposals such as Sanders’ can be discussed, researched and tweaked.
We Americans pride ourselves on our innovative and “can-do” spirit. Conservatives will continue to spin their anti-government ideology and fight fiercely for the status quo on health care (which primarily benefits themselves, the very wealthy and top insurance and pharmaceutical executives, not the vast majority of Americans), but we must wake up as a nation about the failure of a private, market-based system, as Dr. Herpel states. It is time for Americans to come to a collective will to overhaul our health care system for the benefit of all of our citizens.
Herpel, John K. “Letter to the Editor,” The Business Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 6 (July/August 2017) 2.
Hill, Steven. Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2010.