State Rep. Phil Lopes says that with his proposal to provide government-run health insurance to every resident of the state any person could visit a doctor any time, yet no health care provider would be forced to accept lower payments. That's not exactly the way government health programs work.
Patients in Canada and the United Kingdom commonly wait up to a year to see a doctor, while providers, especially of primary care, are becoming scarce due to declining revenue. Our Medicare and Medicaid systems are plagued with the same problems.
There is no evidence that expanding health insurance coverage would improve the health or longevity of the poor compared to other approaches. Moreover, more health insurance wouldn't improve the quality of medical care. Nor would it reduce health disparities across racial and socioeconomic lines, according to Harvard's Christopher Murray.
Meanwhile, the private sector has some good ideas to improve access to health care. Walk-in clinics are sprouting up in Wal-Marts, CVS pharmacies, and other retail outlets, where minor conditions can be treated for $40 to $60. The staff of these clinics refers patients for higher levels of care when needed. To assure continuity of care, reports are e-mailed to personal physicians. Patients report a 90 percent satisfaction rate.
Government could do more to make medical care more affordable and accessible, but not by taking over the insurance business. We should all be able to purchase health insurance with the same tax benefits that employers get. We should be able to purchase health insurance across state lines, to avoid the costly mandates imposed by state governments. And health savings accounts should be available to all.
Dr. Tom Patterson is the Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, a former state senator, and emergency room physician. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.