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by Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD
Paris is in flames over a fuel tax increase that would pile 30 cents onto the $7.06 per gallon price paid by citizens whose average monthly salary is $2,753.This burdensome “carbon tax” on the middle class is intended to help meet Europe’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and thereby halt global warming or climate change. It appears that the 21st century French Revolution has begun. This time, Brussels is sending in tanks to protect the new elite and its agenda.
Back in the states, some well-heeled, presumably well-intentioned Medicare-for-All advocates from California, New York, and New Jersey are grousing about how “Trump took away my homeowners tax deduction!” The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now caps the previously unlimited federal tax itemized deductions for the combined state, local and property taxes at $10,000. The portion of a mortgage on which interest can be deducted is limited to $750,000, down from the current limit of $1 million.
Folks with million-dollar homes who continue to vote for legislators who impose high state taxes to finance their pet social programs are less sympathetic than the French Yellow Vests—especially when these same elitists want to take away the “crumbs” from the 80 percent of taxpayers who are receiving some relief from the near doubling of the standard deduction.
But everyone will face still more taxes to fund Medicare-for-All. Bernie Sanders’s financing plan would “limit tax deductions for the wealthy,” defined as $250,000 per household. Sanders also proposes eliminating health savings accounts (HSAs), which allow patients to take charge of their own care. And it won’t stop there—or at the equivalent of 30 cents per gallon.
It’s not just the taxes: it’s the loss of the freedom to choose. The M4A bills prohibit virtually all private health insurance. M4A promises “free” access to “willing healthcare providers”—but robs us of choice. Even existing Medicare offers 11 supplemental insurance programs with options for different premium structures. Purchasers can decide to pay a little more now for a stable premium price as they age, or pay quite a bit less and anticipate the age-related increase over the years. But, you say there would be no premiums with M4A. Wrong. The “premiums” are increased taxes. And taxes are not optional. You must obey.
We should take a cue from the French (minus the fires and looting). We need a middle-class medical care revolt against the elitists and politicians who think more government through high taxes is The Answer while ignoring community solutions. For example, We Do Better, a humanitarian movement, seeks out solutions to social problems based not on a particular political ideology or lobbyist’s effort, but on what works. In Southern California eight Clinica Mi Pueblo (CMP) clinics accept only cash, have transparent pricing on their website, and their services cost less than half of the price set by third parties. Where the average charge for an X-ray is between $260 and $460, CMP charges only $80. Utah’s Maliheh Free Clinic (MFC) serves low income and uninsured residents who are ineligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or any government subsidized healthcare. The MFC provided free healthcare to more than 15,000 patients in 2016 at an average cost of only $56 per patient, and 95% of donations to MFC go to providing medical services. New Jersey’s Zarephath Health Center is a volunteer-run and funded facility for patients who cannot find care “in the system.” Here it costs $15 to see a patient, versus $160-$280 at the Federally Qualified Health Center down the street.
Another increasingly popular model is direct primary care (DPC). Here, patients pay a monthly subscription fee to the practice (between $40 and $100 depending on age and family size), which covers all primary care services, certain laboratory tests, and at-cost pharmaceuticals at as much as 15 times less than the price at the pharmacy. The personal relationship with a physician enhances the care to patients with chronic conditions, reducing costly hospitalizations. Catastrophic insurance can cover major medical expenses. St. Luke’s Family Practice in Modesto, California is a DPC non-profit organization. Here, “benefactors” pay the fees for the “recipients” – those who cannot afford the fees.
Then there are many health care sharing ministries where members engage in voluntary sharing of costs for its members’ health needs. One such model, the Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), has plans that cost half as much as ACA Marketplace plans. It has more than 279,000 members, and has covered more than $1 billion in medical bills since 1981.
Americans want authority over our own lives. Our innovative spirit and generosity have created and will continue to create ways to deliver medical care to the most people without sacrificing choice—and at a more affordable cost.
Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers.