Health Insurance: The Problem, The Solution

Donna Goings, Robert Graham and David Shreve

Donna Goings, Robert Graham and David Shreve

Panelists Donna GoingsRobert Graham and David Shreve examined the problems with today’s health care system, their origins and how they would be addressed by a proposed national health insurance program. The panel included the perspectives of a consumer/patient, a medical professional and an economist. They spoke at the June 10, 2009 meeting of the Senior Statemen of Virginia held at the Charlottesville Senior Center

Donna Goings is a local real estate agent with 23 years of experience, a member of the National Association of Realtors, a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), and a graduate of the Realtor’s Institute (GRI). Donna served four years on the Board of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors including two years as treasurer. Donna received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Wake Forest University in 1968. A former teacher of math in the Charlottesville Public School System Donna has served as president of the Charlottesville Education Association and chairperson of the Charlottesville Political Action Committee for Education. Donna has also been active in her community by serving on the Charlottesville Rail Board, on the CHART citizens’ advisory committee on transportation and as an organizer of her Westwood Road area Neighborhood Watch. Donna’s current concern is health care reform.

Robert Graham has, for 10 years, served as director of patient billing for the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Virginia. During this time, Robert has served on a number of committees at the University of Virginia Health Center dealing with billing issues for both physician and hospital charges. Robert received his Bachelor of Music Degree from Indiana University in 1980 and his Masters Degree from Indiana in 1981. As a trombonist, Robert has performed with the Baton Rouge Symphony, Richmond Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, Lynchburg Symphony and Charlottesville Symphony orchestras. Robert was the adjunct instructor of trombone at the University of Virginia from 1985 through 2001. He has also performed professionally with the Broadway touring production of Annie and with the Cab Calloway orchestra.

David Shreve is a former professor of economic history at the University of Virginia, where he held a joint appointment at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Department of History. He was a candidate for the United States Congress in 2008. A specialist in national, state, and local economic policy and 20th century U.S. political history, David also served as a budget analyst for the Louisiana legislature, where he was the legislative analyst responsible for the state Medicaid program, its indigent care hospital system, and all of the Bayou State’s health care departments and agencies. In that capacity, he was also a member of the governor’s health care estimating conference and the legislative representative to the Kellogg-Robert Wood Johnson task force on public health reform. He is the vice president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, a member of the Virginia Organizing Project Tax Reform Committee, the editor and associate editor of seven volumes in W.W. Norton’s Presidential Recordings series, and the author of numerous essays and articles on American political economy and of the forthcoming book, American Promise: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and the Forging of the Modern Economy.

Program Summary

Three panelists addressed the issue: “Health Insurance: the Problem, the Solution.” The primary debate going on in Washington today is the formation of a national health insurance program that has everyone in and no one out. In the early decades of the 20thcentury, three payment plans sere formed. First was le Cross, a nonprofit. During WW II, when wages were frozen, employers got into the act by providing company paid insurance. Also during this period, Henry J. Kaiser developed the Health Maintenance Organization. Then came Medicare for the elderly, and in the 90’s came Medicare Part D, a drug plan using private insurance companies under government regulation.

Panelist Donna Goings described her experience as a consumer/patient. For 24 years she had paid her own health care premiums with a high deductible. When a skin blemish was diagnosed as cancer, she underwent outpatient surgery, but the cost came to $10,000. She also spoke of a friend who has worked for many years with a company that provides employee health care, but now she is on the verge of reaching the $1 million lifetime benefit limit. Ms. Goings has come to the conclusion that a single payer approach is the solution.

Panelist Robert Graham, a medical professional, provided extensive information comparing Medicare to six major private insurance plans. In every case, the Medicare allowances beat all of the private plans and also the patient copays were less than all of the private plans, and none of the commercial insurances came close to the cost control achieved by Medicare.

Panelist David Shreve, an economist, addressed the question of how to pay for a single payer system. He suggested a small transaction tax on all stock market sales; a roll back of 2003 tax cuts; a 1.45 percent tax on income; and a gain from economic efficiencies.

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