When Juan Figueroa, president of Meriden-based Universal Health Care Foundation, introduced “SustiNet” two weeks ago the response was, for the most part, enthusiastic. And why shouldn’t it be?
Foundation officials said that if implemented over a five-year timeline, SustiNet would save households and businesses a combined total of $1.75 billion by 2014. The new plan would offer a health care coverage option, stimulate competition and address the root cause of the health system’s problems. It would create a new public-private insurance pool open to individuals, small businesses, non-profits and municipalities, according to foundation officials.
In addition to making sure everyone in the state who needs health coverage can get it, the proposal called for stronger coordination of patient care, more competitive reimbursement rates for physicians and widespread use of electronic medical records.
Other features of SustiNet include coverage for residents regardless of pre-existing conditions, job changes, self employment, divorce and other life changes.
Well, not everyone was smitten by the plan. Dan Montano of Wethersfield, a pharmaceutical rep with 35 years of experience, cited long waits, rationing and the general lack of respect people in the United Kingdom have for their national health service and fears the same will happen here. Montano allows that the goal of universal health care is laudable, but believes the road leading to it will prove to be an expensive failure. He has nightmares of elected officials like state Sen. Thomas Gaffey telling him which drugs, tests and surgeries he can receive. With government pushing affordable housing, he wonders why we should expect a better quality of care with government-controlled health care.
Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle has written a book, “Critical: What we can do about the health care crisis.” Since President Obama has named Daschle secretary of Health and Human Services, this book could be a preview of what we can expect if universal health care becomes a reality.
Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, has her own book on health care, “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: a Citizen’s Guide.”
Pipes warns that if Daschle creates a federal health board, the FHB will decide treatments and drugs allowed under government programs and the price the government will pay for them. Medical innovation will be stifled, new products may not be brought to market if the board decides the cost to the government is not worth the gain. She points to Canada where both drugs and doctors are in short supply; province governments establish physicians’ fees, which are usually a lot less than what American physicians charge. As a result, 11 percent of Canadian-trained doctors decide to practice medicine in the U.S. Wait times in Canada to see a primary-care physician can exceed 18 weeks. Pipes quotes Brian Day, former president of the Canadian Medical Association, who says that Canada is “a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week [while] humans can wait two to three years.”
But, it may already be too late for the private sector. Pipes writes in The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Daschle and the Democrats have spent years developing both the policy and political strategy to make the final push for taxpayer-financed universal health insurance. They have the players on the field, a crisis providing a sense of urgency, and a playbook filled with lessons learned from years of health policy reform disasters — most recently that of HillaryCare in 1994.”
Scott Whipple can be reached at swhip[email protected] or by calling (860) 225-4601, ext. 319.