Anthony Piel, a friend and neighbor, was for many years a director and legal counsel of the World Health Organization. This is from a column he wrote for our local weekly, the Lakeville Journal.
…I have sent the Obama administration information about the WHO plan, because, when someone’s got a better mousetrap, why not copy it?
The WHO plan is better even than the health coverage of the U.S. Congress, or of any known HMO or private health insurance plan. For example, in addition to the usual costs of doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, immunizations, hospitalization etc., it covers mental, dental, eyeglasses, prosthetics, etc. It covers those costs anywhere in the world; you can break a leg in the Himalayas, and you’re covered, regardless of provider. WHO has special mechanisms for controlling cost charges in different countries, and drug companies and other providers fear to fight these controls.
For lesser medical costs, the WHO plan covers 80 percent; patient liability is 20 percent. But when there are catastrophic costs due to heart, stroke cancer etc., the WHO plan switches to as high as 100-percent coverage and the patient liability to as low as 0 percent. (That’s the WHO answer to “Sicko.”)
The cost under the WHO plan? Under $300 a month for a family of four. In other words, an affordable, universal health insurance plan is feasible. The WHO plan resembles a standardized, single-payer system, so administrative costs are a fraction of what they are under U.S. private plans. The WHO plan is fully funded, so it is not dependent on future tax revenue, and no one can borrow from it to wage foreign wars. There are enormous savings in the WHO plan, and all income is plowed back into the fund.
That’s the secret of success. All we have to do is copy it. The unique cost problem for the United States, unlike WHO, is that in the United States we’re playing catch-up. We have to prime the pump for all those people who have never yet paid into the plan, but will have immediate health costs. We also have to fund, or help pay the premiums for, the truly poor and unemployed. That could cost a few billion dollars. If we can recover the economy, with full employment, the Obama plan will ultimately pay its own way. We can one day provide truly universal coverage to achieve “Health for All.”
But do we have the political will to do so? The HMO, insurance and pharmaceutical industries are spending multi-millions of dollars in the guise of supporting health-care reform, lobbying Congress to exclude a public option from the mix, on the grounds that (a) it would be inefficient, (b) yet it would out-compete private plans, and (c) anyway it’s “socialized medicine…”