By Theresa Chalich
With the 2020 U.S Presidential primary campaign underway, health care remains a top concern for voters. Sometimes it seems there are as many health care reform proposals as there are candidates. Meanwhile, special interests, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are actively working to quash any large-scale overhaul of the health care system.
Wendell Potter came to the University of Pittsburgh campus on February 6th to promote Medicare for All during these highly charged political times. The title of his presentations were geared towards his audiences. At the noon talk at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Mr. Potter’s “Solving America’s Health Care crisis” was well received by over 60 medical students, residents, and doctors. The evening title talk to over 70 attendees was “Achieving Medicare for All.” After both talks there was a lively, insightful, and concerned Q & A session.
Wendell Potter, President of the Business Initiative Health policy (BIHP), explained the benefits of Medicare for All for consumers, families, business owners, workers, and the economy. He is a health care reform advocate, a New York Times bestselling author, and a former health insurance executive who blew the whistle on the industry’s unethical business practices in testimony to the U.S. Senate.
As a former insurance executive, Mr. Potter spoke firsthand about the public relations and lobbying campaigns the insurance industry has used to popularize the employer-sponsored insurance system, even as premiums have skyrocketed, and many businesses and their employees are struggling to keep up. He also described how our health system became so broken, how the insurance industry continues to prosper at the expense of the rest of the economy, and why business owners must play a central role in the healthcare reform movement.
According to Mr. Potter, “Any systemic reform that leaves insurance companies in control of our healthcare system is doomed to fail, which is why a single-payer, Medicare-for-All type of system is both essential and inevitable. I know from my two decades as an executive at two of the largest health insurers that insurers’ top priority is to ‘enhance shareholder value’ by maximizing profits and maintaining an expected profit margin.”
“In addition, our multi-payer system is heavily burdened with administrative expenses unknown in other developed countries. Medicare for All is inevitable because the current system is not sustainable. Insurer and employers cannot continue to shift more and more of the cost of insurance and health care to their workers, which is the current industry-wide strategy. The number of uninsured Americans is rising again. Also, the number of underinsured American, in plans with such high deductibles they can’t use their coverage, continues to increase at a rapid clip.”
Bob Mason, social worker and Board Member of Health Care 4 All PA, stated, “If we want to guarantee the American rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ and the Constitution’s promise to ‘promote the general welfare,’ we urgently call upon our elected representatives to guarantee high quality, patient-centered, publicly accountable, compassionate health care for all.”
Anita Prizio, small business owner, Allegheny County Council member, and treasurer for Health Care 4 All PA added, “I am excited Mr. Potter chose to speak in Pittsburgh now. The UPMC/ Highmark divorce affects all of us, and I believe these institutions have little regard for the people they affect most. As a former health insurance executive, Mr. Potter offers insight how we, as stakeholder, including elected officials, patients, and taxpayers can hold these institutions accountable.”
As already referred to, health care industries and their allies are already aiming their PR protests at the achievability of a Medicare for All health care system. Mr. Potter instructed us on being aware of FUD. This is the acronym for Fear-Uncertainty Doubt that the insurance companies will surely use against this feasible plan. He also highlighted the importance of our messaging in promotion of this system.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical School’s student groups, the Social Determinants of Health Interest Group and the Social Medicine Fellows, sponsored the noon presentation. Wednesday evening’s event was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, Health Care 4 All PA, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Democratic Socialists of America’s Health Justice Committee (Pittsburgh chapter), and the Physicians for a National Health Program (Pittsburgh Chapter).
The southwest PA chapter invites all interested persons and parties to join us in this campaign which is getting more and more support. To learn more about our legislative initiative for a single payer system go to http://www.healthcare4allpa web site. To learn more about the southwest PA chapter and about our monthly meetings, contact Theresa Chalich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theresa Chalich is a registered nurse and chairperson of Health Care 4 All PA’s southwest PA chapter.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 49 No. 2 March 2019. All rights reserved.)