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Hearing Highlights Dysfunction of US Health Care System, Points to Need for ‘Medicare for All’

Statement of Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, Deputy Director, Health Research Group at Public Citizen

WASHINGTON - Note: The Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform holds a hearing today and Thursday
titled, "Between You and Your Doctor: the Bureaucracy of Private Health

Today's hearing before House lawmakers provides a welcome
opportunity to reflect upon the dysfunction of the current U.S. health
insurance system. Even as some tout the superiority of the U.S. health
care system, they seem to forget the last time they or a family member
either had to spend hours sorting out unfathomable private health
insurance bills or received a massive bill thanks to private companies'
copays, deductibles or exclusions of those with pre-existing
conditions. Similarly, health care providers afraid of a "government
takeover" seem to have forgotten the inefficiencies of tracking the
requirements of dozens of insurance companies or the time they have
spent on the phone trying to ensure that some needed medical procedure
was covered.

A typical HMO incurs an overhead of 15 to 25 percent; the overhead
for the Medicare program is a comparatively lean 3 percent. Private
health insurance companies have such high overhead because their prime
method for maximizing profits is to deny health care. To deny the
service for which the patient or their employer is paying requires an
army of insurance company bureaucrats.

There is an elephant in the room. All these problems could be
reduced or even eliminated if there was only a "Medicare-for-all"
system, also known as single-payer, for health care in this country.


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