ST. CHARLES – U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, believes that the country has opportunities when it comes to reforming healthcare, but also called the nation's system an "embarrassment."
Casten was among the panelists featured Oct. 19 at a forum on how to navigate the healthcare system.
“It’s that we spend more per capita for health care than any other country in the world, and we have the worst health outcomes than every other country that has universal health care,” he said. “That’s an opportunity because it means that any conversation about, ‘Can we afford to give people better quality care?’ It’s an inherently stupid and misinformed conversation. All we have to do is copy what other people have done, and we’ll get cheaper, better care. It’s obviously an embarrassment because we’ve gotten to this point.”
The event, dubbed Myths and Mysteries of American Healthcare, was put on by the Kane County Democratic Women. Among the topics addressed during the forum included prescription drug costs, universal and single-payer healthcare systems, the ACA, medical malpractice and tort reform.
Casten said the ACA was a step in the right direction, and John “Jack” Griffin Jr., an insurance agent and one of the featured speakers, agreed, saying the 2015 appropriations bill was a misstep.
The GOP has not presented a model to replace the ACA, to date.
Griffin said that what’s interesting is the blueprint of the ACA was conceived years ago under the George H.W. Bush administration. He said at the time, Democrats wouldn’t get behind it.
“I’ve seen this progression, and we’ve had this total turnaround by one party that actually helped put the blueprints of the ACA in the first place,” Griffin said.
Dr. Susan Nedza, an emergency room physician and another featured speaker, shared that sentiment, saying the ACA was developed by lawmakers with bipartisan support. She admitted that she currently buys health insurance through the exchange and is satisfied with her coverage.
Not everyone at the forum advocated for the ACA. Dr. John Perryman, a pediatrician and another featured speaker, said he supports the single-payer system provided under the proposal for Medicare for All.
“When you have a situation with multiple payers and you’re trying to compensate different payers for different risk pools, it just entails a whole additional level of complexity to the system and more cost,” he said “It would seem that the most efficient way of pooling risk is that you have one risk pool and one payer.”
Casten pointed out that issues involving the healthcare industry will not be eliminated under single-payer or universal systems. He said he believes the nation should move forward with a universal health care system in the way that education is implemented.
“Everybody in this country has access to an education until they reach 12th grade,” Casten said. “You got public schools; you got private schools; you got parochial schools; you got homeschools; you can move; you can choose, but we all have access. A universal health care system would provide that same structure.”
Nedza said one key component missing from the current system is negotiation.
“It’s not so much about the payment model, but it’s ability to negotiate,” she said.
Nedza said the issue with centralizing the health care system is that different communities have different needs.
“It really needs to be a local decision, and I think that’s one of the challenges when you try to balance central planning versus saying, ‘In this particular community, here’s what are our health problems are and this is what we’re going to invest in,’” she said.