Health care fails us only because government fails us


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been a disaster for America, especially when it comes to our amazing institutions like our health insurance companies.

And the numbers don’t lie: $2.3 billion for Aetna. Just under $2.5 billion for Blue Cross Blue Shield’s for-profit arm, Anthem. And a whopping $7 billion for the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group.

Wait, those aren’t losses. That’s actual profit reported by these companies in 2016.

Not that there’s anything wrong with profit. Every good business needs to make a profit. Yet this money has poured into investor pockets despite all of these insurers whining about how terrible the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has been to them.

If only all of us could be devastated by a meaningful government program, but still pocket $11.8 billion.

The Affordable Care Act certainly had its critics, and on both sides of the aisle. But those critics couldn’t be further apart. 

Conservatives, on one hand, believe health care should be left up to the states, and better yet, to these massive corporations like UnitedHealth and Aetna. Progressives, on the other hand, believe Obamacare doesn’t go far enough. That what this country really needs is a single-payer health system, like what sustains many other highly industrialized countries. 

Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried agrees. Last February, when Congressional Republicans backed by President Trump were working hard to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Gottfried introduced what he calls the New York Health Act. This act would more or less expand a Medicaid-like system that would essentially create a single-payer health care plan.

That means everyone — and we mean everyone — would have access to health care, unfettered by financial constraints. 

There would be no premiums. No co-pays. No deductibles. No maximums. No pre-existing conditions. No fearing a hospital room visit by the business office trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bill.

Everyone is covered, and we use the billions we already dump into insurance companies — minus the massive profits — to make it work.

The primary complaint from these insurance companies under Obamacare was that there weren’t enough healthy people signing up for the program to off-set the sick. Well, there’s one way to ensure the balance they’re looking for: Sign everyone up to a single system.

Yes, government would have to manage our health care, and that’s a scary prospect. Yet we entrust our government to do so many other things that affect us every day, from building roads, to funding police and fire departments, even delivering water to our homes.

Government is not perfect, and we need a lot of improvement there. But right now, there is no motivation by health care facilities to lower costs, not while profit-hungry insurance companies are willing to pay those costs, and then pass that on to all of us, their customers.

If Obamacare isn’t working, it’s not because we don’t need change. It’s simply that we need the right change.