By Ann Troy, M.D.
In the third quarter of 2021, each of the major health-insurance companies made over $1 billion in profit. This is money we paid in premiums to pay for health care but, instead, went into the pockets of shareholders and corporate executives.
The United States is the only developed country without a national health plan. We spend double the average spent per capita in other developed nations and almost double the percentage of GDP, yet we have millions uninsured and the worst health-care statistics in the developed world. WHO ranks the U.S. No. 37 in overall measures of health and wellbeing.
Worried about how much it will cost, Americans wait longer to seek help for medical problems, thus, their problems become more deep-rooted and more difficult to treat. Sometimes they die early because they waited too long—an estimated 50,000 a year. Lack of access to mental-health care contributes to the high rate of gun deaths and opioid overdoses in this country–more than in the rest of the developed world combined.
American companies are at a disadvantage compared to companies in other developed nations which are not saddled with the cost of paying for health insurance. Small companies can’t compete with larger ones because they can’t afford to pay for health insurance. People stay in jobs they don’t like rather than going back to school or starting their own businesses because they need health insurance. Workers often have to change doctors every time their employers find a cheaper health plan, disrupting trusted relationships and continuity of care. Unhappiness over health benefits is the leading cause of labor unrest.
California leads the nation in many areas. We now have the opportunity to lead in much-needed and long-overdue healthcare reform. AB1400, which will be introduced in the Assembly in January, would create a simple and equitable single payer / Medicare for All system in California. We need to urge our assemblymember, Marc Levine, to support this bill.