Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Priest: Trump accidentally tells truth about health care

Dr. Neal A. Priest

President Donald Trump recently met with Australian Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull and told him: “You have much better health
care than we do.”

This was just hours after Trump was gloating over the House
GOP’s gutting of the Affordable
Care Act.

At least 20 million people – many right here in our area – will lose their medical insurance over the next few years.

That depends on what happens
to the legislation in the Senate and
if the president signs the bill as it is
currently written into law.

“Make American Great Again” thus becomes “People will
die and will go bankrupt again with this shiny, new plan.” (But wealthy
people will pay less.)

Why would Trump say that about Australia’s system? He tripped up and said something true.

It is a much better health care system, as it provides universal coverage. It’s called Medicare, and they extend it to everyone.

But it’s not a single-payer system with only the government running and paying for things.

Australians who can afford to do so are encouraged to buy private insurance (to get a preferred doctor, for example).

There are strict regulations on what insurance companies can charge and what will be paid out to providers for treatment.

Australia outperforms the United States in most health
measures: patient satisfaction, life expectancy, infant mortality and
healthcare expenditure per capita.

The basic public system is funded primarily by a 2 percent tax on income.

That money pays for doctors and nursing staff and financing state-run hospitals – not exorbitant insurance company CEO salaries.

About 50 percent of Australians have private insurance,
and of those, 30 percent choose a “public option,” Medibank, which is
run by the government.

This competition, designed
to keep private health insurance
premiums low, is working quite well.

There is no doubt that some of the premier medical institutions and
practitioners in the world are to be
found right here in the good
old USA.

People from throughout the world come here for advanced
treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease and a variety of other

We can retain that first-class status. But by adding
universal coverage, we can overhaul the byzantine, inhumane and
expensive healthcare system we have today.

The Republican plan will only make things worse. (And the wealthy will pay less.)

We spend more money and get less bang for our buck than any other advanced nation.

The good news is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to healthcare financing.

It has been done quite successfully by many countries that don’t have as many resources as we do.

There are several models such as Australia’s to choose from that have worked well and combine good
medical outcomes with significant cost savings.

France, the United Kingdom, Austria and Germany are other examples.

Our leaders – or a new crop of elected officials – need to muster the courage to do the right thing and insure ALL Americans.

It’s not high math.

But it’s high time.

Dr. Neal Priest is an emergency room physician
at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens.
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