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In Response: Health insurers failing us on affordability

The March 16 "National View" commentary by Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute in Virginia ("Should U.S. provide universal health care? No: Americans in no mood for another health care upheaval") caused me to question motives.

Valerie SwensonI read at galen.org that, "The Galen Institute has many plans to counter the march toward government-controlled medicine and shift the debate toward ideas that offer greater freedom and more affordable health care choices." Clearly, Turner supports insurance companies controlling health care access.

Turner wrote that conservatives want "control" to go to individuals and families. That is unicorn-speak, and it's too late for that. Control means nothing if you can't afford coverage. It is well established that employers and health insurers control employees' health care options. Insurance companies are not created to solve our extraordinary national failure when it comes to accessing affordable health care.

Turner asserted that Medicare coverage for all is touted as free. No, it is advocated as affordable. Wealthy people would pay their fair share. If they have employees, many would get meaningful relief from current premium costs. Statewide and national dollars already being spent would be allocated to the plan.

She also suggested that under Medicare for all, you wouldn't be able to choose your doctor. That would be untrue. More choices come when everyone is covered under one plan. It's insurance companies which deny out-of-network care. Under Medicare for all, all doctors would be in-network.

Medicare for all has nothing to do with, nor is it anything like, the Affordable Care Act. Although Turner made an attempt to compare the two, no helpful conclusion can come from such a comparison.

Setting up Medicare for all would cause upheaval, Turner further wrote. It was not an impressive argument. If we could get Medicare up and running within a year in the 1960s, we can get Medicare for all set up with even better, faster systems today.

Words like "Washington control" were used by Turner to cause fear. Those words could refer to Medicare, and many years of polling show that people don't want Medicare to go away. Don't be afraid when you hear those words used in an intentional way to scare. Medicare for all would offer affordable, cradle-to-grave coverage.

Finally, Turner wrote that Washington bureaucrats could control health care decisions under Medicare for all. Politicians I know of who blatantly try to change laws about health care decisions are conservatives who do so to control women's private health care decisions. For Turner to assert that "progressives believe the government should make decisions" was like listening to someone who came late to the movie and has no idea what's going on.

CMS, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is the overseeing federal agency that, among other duties, reviews physicians' input about medically necessary services and reviews requests to add procedure codes to be linked to diagnostic decisions.

After many years of reading its medical decisions, I can claim that this agency works for us, not against us. In fact, the agency is you and me, if that means anything to someone reading this. Every complicated appeal I submitted to Medicare/CMS was approved and paid. I know because I kept track. When thoughtful reasoning and documentation are sent for appeal to Medicare, reviews are carefully determined. Computer systems have to be updated. Humans aren't perfect. Sometimes medically necessary codes aren't listed yet, and appeals help to correct the computer system.

My point? Medicare and CMS employ the best of the best people. They are knowledgeable and they care about patients' reimbursement disputes.

There is a large wave of young folks coming of voting age who believe all citizens should have affordable health care access. We've tried all of the failed attempts. Let's finally do the right thing by covering everyone with a nobody-out, everybody-in Medicare for all plan.

Valerie Swenson of Little Canada, Minn., is a member of Health Care for All Minnesota; is a leadership team member for the Roseville Area Advocates for Minnesota Health Plan; and is a licensed medical coder who has specialized in coding for neonatology, rheumatology, allergy, endocrine, and outpatient clinical.