When we talk about health care and how to make it work for all Illinoisans, we have to talk about the programs that work best: Medicare and Medicaid.
The facts are indisputable. Medicare works: it’s put the brakes on the skyrocketing cost of patient care better than any private insurer. Medicare led the way in promoting the adoption of electronic medical records, which cuts down on physician error and gives patients the tools to understand their treatment plans. And Medicare is leading the charge for value-based payments, where hospitals and health systems get paid based on long-term quality rather than the volume of procedures done.
Medicaid works: it provides better catastrophic coverage, and at lower cost, than many Bronze-level plans you can find on the healthcare exchanges. Medicaid aggressively manages its prescription drug program to get more access to effective therapies, at lower costs. The expansion of Medicaid alone under the Affordable Care Act has saved tens of thousands a lives per year already; Medicaid has saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives since it was adopted in the 1970s.
And the quality of private insurance can be terrible. Private insurers can–and will–deny coverage for the specialist visits you or your children may need, resulting in lost time at work and dozens of hours spent on the phone with call centers to understand why. They can cut off coverage, even while you are in the middle of occupational or physical therapy, with no explanation. And, before the Affordable Care Act came into force, they could outright cancel your individual policy for no reason at all. In 2008 and 2009, two of our largest national insurance companies were caught targeting cancer survivors and finding excuses to illegally cancel coverage and shirk having to pay for their chemotherapy.
We need to talk about what matters: getting the best quality of care possible for your family and putting as much money back in your own pocket as possible.
The best way to do that is by opening Medicare to everybody.