“Virtually every other developed country has embraced a single-payer system that’s far more efficient than ours. Those nations treat health care as a fundamental human right. It’s time to stop wasting our money on elaborate efforts to deny people care. Instead, let’s devote our resources to providing affordable quality care to every American whenever they need it.”
Cathy Glasson, RN, President of SEIU Local 199 which represents 5,000 Iowa healthcare workers and public employees. She was a Democratic candidate for governor, finishing second in the June 5 primary.
Her article in the DesMoines Register appears below.
One letter reveals what ails health care
About 600,000 poor or disabled Iowans have their health care covered by Medicaid, which has been managed by for-profit companies since 2016.
The caregivers in our union at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) got an ominous letter in the mail late last month. You can see it by scrolling to the bottom of this piece. It ordered them to send documents proving the identity of their spouses and children on the hospital’s health insurance plan. If they fail to do so, their loved ones’ coverage will be cut off.
The letter came from an outside consulting firm called HMS, which bills itself as a leader in health care “cost containment.” But this isn’t cost containment, it’s cost shifting. And the irony is that anyone UIHC does kick off its insurance plan may return to the hospital’s emergency room as an uninsured patient unable to pay for care.
We don’t want to just single out UIHC for criticism, however. Its self-defeating effort to cut costs is a symptom of the sickness that’s afflicting health care in Iowa and across America.
Right now, UIHC and all of Iowa’s hospitals are being squeezed in a fiscal vise. Ever since former Gov. Terry Branstad privatized the management of Iowa’s Medicaid system in 2016, the for-profit providers that run it have been refusing to reimburse hospitals for millions of dollars in care. Last year, charity care — care for which hospitals aren’t paid — jumped 17.4 percent.
Now, under Gov. Kim Reynolds, we’re hearing horrifying stories of Medicaid recipients being denied vital care. In April, the Register reported on a disabled 4-year-old forced to crawl because a private Medicaid provider wouldn’t pay for his walker. The state insists that these cruel cuts have saved Iowans money. But the Iowa Hospital Association says there’s “zero” evidence to support that claim.
On the federal level, the progress made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is being reversed. After its passage in 2010, the number of uninsured Americans dropped to its lowest level in history while the growth in health care costs fell dramatically, according to the New York Times. But now that Republicans are actively sabotaging the ACA, the number of uninsured Americans is rising once again and so are the costs for hospitals that must care for them.
Given the financial squeeze hospitals face, perhaps it’s understandable that UIHC is resorting to desperate measures to cut costs. But forcing Americans to jump through even more hoops to get health care isn’t working. The U.S. spends 17.2 percent of our GDP on health care, almost double the rate in the rest of the developed world.
The difference between us and them? Virtually every other developed country has embraced a single-payer system that’s far more efficient than ours. Those nations treat health care as a fundamental human right. It’s time to stop wasting our money on elaborate efforts to deny people care. Instead, let’s devote our resources to providing affordable quality care to every American whenever they need it.