AMA past president: Health care crisis is about the cost, not care


CEDAR FALLS — The United States is not in the midst of a health care crisis, according to Dr. William G. Plested III, immediate past president of the American Medical Association. But the U.S. is in a crisis of figuring out who will pay for health care.

The Greater Cedar Valley Chamber of Commerce brought Plested to the AEA 267 building Monday as part of the the Knowledge at Noon series.

Plested said increasing health care costs in the United States have pushed the industry to a tipping point. The twin tsunamis of technology and demography have spun the health-care system into peril, he said. Plested presented the AMA’s solution to the problem — a combination of individual ownership, individual tax credits and medical liability reform.

Plested likened the United States Medicare system a Ponzi scheme. As baby boomers retire, there will be more people claiming Medicare than there will be paying into the system, he said.

The employer-based health insurance program in the United States was created “accidentally,” Plested said. During the country’s first health care “tipping point,” just after World War II, the government imposed wage and price controls, then balanced the system by allowing employers to offer tax-free health insurance. Plested called for a system wherein individuals buy their insurance so it follows them from employer to employer. Those who could not afford coverage would receive tax credits.

“We are the most mobile society in the history of the world, and to have our insurance not follow us makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

The AMA also wants medical liability reform. A separate court system specializing in medical lawsuits was a solution Plested offered.

Plested contended government implementation of wage and cost controls would worsen the problem, while universal systems like Canada’s cause the rationing of health care.

Finally, Americans should take preventive health measures on their own. “The biggest driver of health care costs are self-inflicted,” Plested said.

He urged the audience to force politicians to give answers on the subject of health care, rather than vague sound-bite friendly quotes.

Contact Drew Andersen at (319) 291-1418 or
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