WASHINGTON – Whether they know it or not, Americans are already subsidizing the cost of health care for the poor through their insurance premiums and medical bills, says David Gill, a Democrat running in the 15th Congressional District.
Change the health care system his way, he promises, and quality care will be available for everybody at a much lower overall cost.
Gill, an emergency room physician challenging U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, in the November election, is a longtime supporter of a single-payer universal health care system.
And while he's not a single-issue candidate, he says, "it's an issue I understand very deeply and feel very passionately about."
Gill was in Washington today to support the launch of a congressional caucus promoting the adoption of the United States National Health Insurance Act – a House bill that would implement a taxpayer-supported, privately delivered health care system available to everybody.
"I think it's a terrific idea, because it would provide affordable health care for all Americans in a very cost-efficient and healthy way," Gill said.
Johnson said he agrees there's a problem with health care access.
"It needs to be addressed," he added. "I simply don't agree that universal health care is the way to address it."
Gill says the current system leaves out too many people – including some 43 million Americans who are uninsured – and includes way too much waste. About 30 cents on every health care dollar goes to administration and profiteering, he said, while the government-run Medicare system spends only 2 percent to 3 percent on administration, he said.
"The average American would save large amounts of money compared to what they pay today on health insurance. Virtually all public health experts agree," Gill said.
Johnson said the House bill is written too vaguely, and even at most conservative estimates would require staggering tax increases.
He also predicts such a system would result in a decline in the quality of the nation's health care: In countries that have adopted universal health care systems, people cope with delays in vitally needed care because the system is crowded by people with minor ailments who have no incentive to limit their trips to the doctor, he said.
Johnson said he finds the bill's language to be vague in terms of how such a system will be financed, and it opens the door to providing health care to "millions, if not tens of millions" of people in the country illegally.
Johnson said he favors changing the health care system from the inside to widen access. He mentions such measures as association health plans for small employers, health care savings accounts, grants for small town and rural health care opportunities and an effective prescription drug program.
Gill argues Johnson is supporting stopgap measures that are inefficient and ineffective.
"Health care savings accounts are a terrific deal if you have the spare money to put away in them," he said. "They serve as a great tax deduction for the wealthy in our society."