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Editorial & Opinion

Dr Mark Ryan: Tax-payer subsidized private health insurance can’t make coverage affordable

“We must stop relying on taxpayer-subsidized, for-profit insurance companies that cannot do the job we need done: universal coverage at affordable cost. We must enact single payer Medicare for All now.”

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Recently, Health Source RI (HSRI), the state-run “exchange” that allows Rhode Islanders to purchase federally subsidized private health insurance revealed it had to slash $1 million from its $13.2-million annual operating budget to cover a “shortfall.” HSRI would not need a budget or even exist if we had single payer Medicare for All (MFA). Under MFA, everyone is always insured (no need for annual enrollment) and there’s no need for any insurance exchanges. Instead of trimming $1 million dollars why not free up the entire $13.2 million budget to spend on health care for patients instead of insurance bureaucrats?

Even before COVID-19, it was clear that our health insurance system had to fundamentally change.  About 43,000 Rhode Islanders had no health insurance. An estimated 450,000 Rhode Islanders were “under-insured” (e.g., not seeking health care because of high deductibles and co-pays).  Since COVID-19, thousands of more Rhode Islanders lost their health insurance or became under-insured as they lost their jobs. Today, we understand more clearly that lack of coverage for anyone puts them at risk and in fact, puts us all at risk.

A federal bailout for HSRI is a bandaid on a failing system. We must stop relying on taxpayer-subsidized, for-profit insurance companies that cannot do the job we need done: universal coverage at affordable cost. We must enact single payer Medicare for All now.

About the Author

J. Mark Ryan, MD, FACP, is the chair of the Rhode Island Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).