Improve, don’t repeal our current health plan

I want to thank Congressman Tom Reed for holding a town hall meeting to get input from his constituency regarding healthcare reform. I had the opportunity to attend the meeting in Cherry Creek.

During that meeting Congressman Reed heard from many members of the community about their anxiety and displeasure with his stated position regarding repealing the Affordable Care Act. Please allow me to add my voice to those voicing their displeasure with this position.

One of the motivations Congressman Reed cited for this position is to alleviate the burden of health-care costs on both individuals and small businesses alike. This is a noble purpose and worthy of support, but not at the expense of the 20 million people who would not have access to health care if it was not for the Affordable Care Act or at the expense of people with pre-existing medical conditions who were not able to get affordable healthcare coverage before the Affordable Care Act.

One way to alleviate that burden effectively is to shoulder it collectively as a society through a single third-party payer system that would provide access to health care for everyone, or at least a public option that people can sign up to and that would compete with the commercial insurers to keep cost down.

These public options can be supported through a progressive tax on income. That approach will improve the competitiveness of American businesses by unshackling them from the significant cost of providing healthcare coverage to their employees.

Rep. Reed put forward his distrust of government as an argument against such plans during that meeting. In my humble opinion this mistrust is not warranted. A very good example of what the government can provide in the health-care arena is the Veterans Administration healthcare delivery apparatus. The VA runs a single-payer system that reaches all its constituents who wish to sign on and that provides quality care, research and educational opportunities while managing at the same time to keep cost down. One way the VA manages to keep cost down is by using its purchasing power to negotiate prices of pharmaceutical products and establishing formularies.

Medicare Part D was prevented from using market dynamics and its purchasing power to achieve the same results by a law passed by a previous Republican administration. That law appears to have the sole purpose of wasting public resources for the benefit of the Pharmaceutical industry that appears to be able to run away, literally, with murder as some CEOs price lifesaving drugs, including long established generics, out of affordability for the people who desperately need them, in the name of profit making. It seems to me that a Medicare-for-all system modeled after the VA is the ideal system we should strive to implement gradually.

Another example of the value of government run health care are the achievements of countries that provide such programs in the industrialized world, who outperform the United States despite being outspent by far when it comes to health-care expenditure per capita.

The Affordable Care Act, while being a huge first step toward solving the ails of the American Healthcare system, has failed to solve all the problems.

Even after the implementation of the Act, many millions of Americans remain without coverage. The ACA also failed to curb the rise of health-care costs as fast as wished, despite slowing the pace of rise of these costs. The ACA may also have resulted in some unintended problems that did not exist before, like the rising premiums and deductibles for many middle class families and rising costs for business with its negative impact on competitiveness in the market place.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, however, and returning to the way things were before the implementation of the ACA is unacceptable. A more prudent approach would be to improve the Affordable Care Act and build on its achievements while correcting and learning from its failures.

I know that the dissident voices heard in Cherry Creek do not represent all of Rep. Reed’s constituency and that there are many who support his position on these issues of utmost importance to the public. I trust, however, that he will do his best, to represent all of us, supporters and detractors alike by raising the public interest above blind partisan loyalty.

Dr. Nabil Jamal has a medical practice in Dunkirk.