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Times-Union Commentary: Patients should be bottom line of care

The commentary by the Business Council‘s Lev Ginsburg on universal health care continues to rely on rhetoric and mistruths rather than the facts in an attempt to scare people. The health insurers and their allies use fear and labels like “socialized medicine” to attack a truly universal system, like Medicare but for everyone, that will give every New Yorker access to the doctor of their choice without premiums, deductibles or co-pays because the facts just aren’t on their side and are actually indefensible.

It’s reminiscent of how when Medicare was first proposed, the special interests who opposed it described it as “socialized medicine” and a threat to freedom and liberty. Now, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular and nobody would imagine getting rid of it.

Fact, a recent report from the independent Commonwealth Fund found that over a third of people forego care because of cost and another third get care but have trouble paying their bills — and this is considered good news, because those numbers have gone down.

Fact, deductibles in New York for employer-sponsored health coverage have increased by 129 percent in the last 10 years and family premiums have increased over 85 percent during that time.

Fact, a truly universal plan would also be more efficient. A recent peer-reviewed study by four independent health experts found that implementing a truly universal system, like Medicare but for everyone, would save $375 billion a year nationwide — more than enough to provide comprehensive coverage for all Americans. In addition to the insurance companies’ overhead and marketing costs, hospitals and doctors spend significant sums on all the different paperwork the insurance companies require.

Premiums and deductibles are very hard for someone to avoid (without simply skipping needed care) and are constantly increasing. In fact, the only difference between rapidly increasing health care costs and taxes is who gets the check. If it makes Mr. Ginsburg happy that premiums and deductibles go to health insurance companies, who take a cut of every dollar for marketing and overhead, rather than a system that gives everyone access to high-quality health care, that’s his prerogative.

But we would rather see a system where health insurance is paid for in a more fair way — like we pay for schools, fire and police and other basic services.

We would rather see a system where our patients don’t come to us months or years too late because they’ve avoided needed care that would have cost too much money. Or a system where our patients end up bankrupt because of health care costs. (Unfortunately, even people with health insurance end up bankrupt due to high medical costs.)

We would rather see a system where we can spend all our time focused on our patients, rather than spending dozens of hours a week wading through paperwork.

Truly universal health care, like the New York Health Act proposed by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, and state Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Harlem, would fix many of these problems. In fact, everyone would gain, except the health insurance companies.

Dr. Danielle Laraque is chairwoman of the New York State Academy of Pediatrics, District II. Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, is president of New York State Nurses Association.