Feb. 22, 2013 — Is health care a human right? Dr. Ewell Scott, a retired physician, emphatically says the answer is “yes.”
He delivered that message Tuesday during a town hall meeting at the Center for Health, Education and Research (CHER).
Scott was speaking about HR 676, also known as the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which has been reintroduced in Congress by Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
"If we had a single payer Medicare for all plan – from life to death – it would reduce the expenses of our healthcare by $400 billion a year," Scott said. "No disputing that figure and we would cover everybody."
Scott said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, will reduce the number of uninsured persons in America but the law won't help much with the cost of health insurance. The new law will go into effect fully in 2014.
There currently are 50 million uninsured Americans, according to Scott.
"The PPACA is going to insure a lot more people in this country," he said. "It's going to bring the 50 million figure down – and the figures are disputed – to somewhere between 20 and 30 million that still won't have health care insurance for a variety of reasons."
He said the PPACA will expand Medicaid to 139 percent of the federal poverty level.
"If I remember correctly, it's like $11,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a family," Scott said.
"If your income level is below that, you're going to be eligible for Medicaid, not Medicare, but Medicaid."
The problem with Medicaid, Scott said, is that it covers only 75 percent of hospital costs. Many specialists will not accept it and benefits vary state by state.
Fifty percent of the PPACA's funding will come from new taxes, he said.
The other fifty percent will come from a reduction in payments to Medicare.
The answer, he said, is HR 676, which would establish expanded and improved Medicare for all. Comprehensive coverage would include outpatient, inpatient, emergency department, medications, durable medical equipment, long term care, mental health, dental care, substance abuse, chiropractic care, basic vision care and hearing. There would be no cost sharing, deductibles or co-pays.
"Insurance is basically voluntary socialism with a surcharge," Scott said.
He added that lack of insurance leads to bankruptcy and the market is not the solution.
The country with the 40th highest life expectancy is the United States, where people live to be 77.8-years-old. There are 50,000 deaths each year due to lack of access to adequate care.
The PPACA would rely on Medicaid and private health insurance. Relying on private health insurance would mandate the purchase of a bad product, according to Scott.
He encouraged the audience of 85 persons to contact their congressmen about voting for HR 676.
After Scott's speech, there was a panel discussion involving Dr. Bob Albert, dean of Morehead State University's College of Business and Public Affairs; Sonny Jones, chief financial officer and vice president of St. Claire Regional Medical Center; Dr. Anthony Weaver of St. Claire’s medical staff; and Dr. Bo Shi, assistant professor of finance at MSU.
In Dr. Weaver's opening statement, he said, "Insurance companies have too much money to be phased out."
"We are unwilling to accept the lifestyles of people. Let's face it, if we're all under a single plan, we're all responsible for the stupidity of each other and we just can't handle that,” Weaver said. “Insurance companies have allowed us to escape from that by changing our rates."
Questions ranged from how Medicare works to how wellness plans do not save money for health insurance companies.
One audience member asked what chance she has of seeing any valid changes in America's health care system in her lifetime.
"The people who seem to be in the know say by 2017, when the Affordable Care Act has really kicked in, and all these things have taken place, the gross domestic product consumption is going to be about 20 percent," Scott said. "And I'm told that's the absolute breaking point for our country."
Nicole Back can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 784-4116.