Timothy Johnson: Medicare an Answer to Health Care Crisis

By Colette Claxton

PLANTATION, FL (April 3, 2014) — Dr. Timothy Johnson, senior medical contributor and former medical editor of ABC News, told 150 senior adults at Covenant Village of Florida that enrolling the United States population in Medicare would be the best and easiest answer to what he predicts will be skyrocketing health care costs and the desire to make insurance available to everyone.

Johnson made the remarks last week during a forum sponsored by the retirement community.

An ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church, Johnson said our nation has a moral obligation to provide health care. In a country whose Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he said, there should be no difference between the right to police or fire protection and the right to health care.

“A significant number of people die every year because they have no health care,” he said. “How can a country that calls itself pro-life be OK with that?”

Despite the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Johnson still believes multiple factors will prevent costs from being contained.

“We spend twice as much per person on health care as other developed nations,” he explained. “But almost all health care economists will tell you that about one-third of what we spend is unnecessary. We don’t have better outcomes, so it’s not like we’re getting our money’s worth. We need to ask where the money is going and why we spend so much.”

He continued, “The underlying forces driving health care costs are so pervasive and so systemic in our society on both sides of the equation—our expectations and the supply of industrial/medical products—I believe costs will climb inexorably until we come to the point when we’ll literally be facing national bankruptcy because of health care costs,” Johnson said. That crisis could arrive within the next eight to 10 years, he added.

Johnson believes politicians handled the banking crisis poorly and will do the same with the collapse of health care.  “They’ll have an emergency weekend meeting in Washington to figure out what to do,” he said. “How do you make good decisions in that environment?”

“I wish I could be more optimistic,” he added. “I wish I could tell you we have a lot of experts who can figure this all out. We do. But we don’t have a political process that wants to listen to them or is willing to think about this thoughtfully and carefully. I hope I can be proved wrong.”

The lack of political will and little industry desire for change are not the only roadblocks to reform, however, Johnson said. People’s expectations about what health care should include also are to blame. We want it to be “convenient, compassionate, coordinated, communicative, and cutting edge,” he said, “but we also want it to be cheap, or even better—free.”

He cited a 1990-era protocol that used bone marrow transplants to treat advanced breast cancer. It continued until three 1999 studies concluded that it was no better than standard chemotherapy. “We want the very newest, thinking it will be the best,” Johnson said, “but frequently we’re wasting money.”

Johnson said he knows many people fear government regulation of health care, but he maintained that cost control and quality improvement will require federal involvement. “Every other developed country has found a way that the government can level the playing field and stimulate competition based on service,” he said.

“The reason they can do it so much more cheaply is the single payer system, which minimizes administrative costs,” he added.

Johnson offered his own solution. The easiest and only thing to do will be to expand Medicare to cover everyone, he said.

Looking for a solution in the currently gridlocked political environment, Johnson says he’s very pessimistic. “I blame everyone—the Republications, the Democrats, the president. I blame them all for not sitting down and having civil and thoughtful long-term conversations about how to solve these problems.”

Covenant Village of Florida Executive Director Domenica Wehmann said the retirement community will continue to offer residents an opportunity to hear from experts. “We hope that by sponsoring forums like this one we can encourage an open, productive dialogue that will result in positive change.”

The community will host Professor Linda Sasser at 10 a.m. on April 16, when she will discuss “Healthy Brain, Healthy Memory.” To RSVP for this event or to receive additional information about the community, call (877) 318-1458 or visit the community’s website.

Covenant Village of Florida is administered by Covenant Retirement Communities.

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9 Comments

  1. Tim, our country is anything but pro-life. Look at the President that our North Park seminary professors celebrated when elected. I would hope that they would not judge a person by the color of his skin but by his character or lack thereof. Pro-life, not even close unless by your own definition.

  2. Does Dr. Palmatier include Richard Nixon as a member of the political left? He proposed a national health plan during his presidency.

    How about conservative John Diefenbaker, who brought national health care to pass in Canada, after a provincial plan was established in Saskatchewan under a rival party? In other words, it was not a partisan issue.

    Does the Covenant canvass what Canadian Covenanters think about it? I was one of them for twelve years, and the system took care of my family of nine very well.

    I have been writing about health care for over twenty years. Not as well as Tim Johnson, of course, but I agree with him on this issue without reservation.

    Everett Wilson

  3. While political leaders must take responsibility for failing to enact a Medicare-for-all approach to health care, the religious community should be ashamed for failing to be united in supporting such a policy. We’ve been happy when we have our own family covered, while seeming to care little that others are not so favored. We gave up too easily on supporting an efficient, effective single-payer system as Dr. Johnson recommends.

  4. The politically liberal position that naively yields the healthcare sector to government control fails to understand the reality of big government mismanagement that has already adversely impacted Medicare making the program destined for bankruptcy. Medicare has been underpaying for services and over-regulating since its inception, causing cost shifting to all of the rest of the healthcare consumers.

    Private enterprise has been much more effective at cost controls and quality of care where market freedom trumps big government control of such an important service to all of us. Competition and free-market control is a much better answer. Healthcare is not a constitutional right. It is a privilege. Compassionate physicians and hospitals have been providing healthcare for the underprivileged and underfunded at no cost or below cost of services for decades.

    Healthcare can not be adequately managed by a corrupt governmental regime dominated by crony capitalists who receive special carve outs from the ruling elites in exchange for campaign contributions and votes. The false caring rhetoric of these same rulers and their minions fails to be matched by actual fairness dignity, respect of life and true compassion for all.

    In the end we wind up giving away our freedom. Oppressive regimes in history have usually started with the take over of healthcare. Visit the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. to read about this fact.This is the same crowd pushing abortion and denying religious freedom to businesses and even church organizations. Do you really think we can trust this group to provide quality healthcare to all? The only way this scheme will work is by denying care to those in need when it becomes cost prohibitive.

    The huge resulting governmental organization established to run all of this will gradually take more and more of the funding resulting in less and less care. Free clinics supported by churches and county hospital districts designed to care for the poor and those who fail to see the reason for providing healthcare coverage or can not afford to do so for their families as well as emergency room safety nets are a better answer than total government control, which results in increasing cost, declining quality of care and decreasing access to healthcare. I apologize for being so contrary but I see things differently as one who has been a healthcare provider for 44 years watching all of this unfold.

  5. I applaud Dr. Tim Johnson for his untiring support of a single-payer plan; it is such a no-brainer that one wonders how even the present crowd in Washington can continue to ignore it. Medicare-for All would be the simplist and most efficient solution. As a retiree for more than 15 years, I can attest to the fact that Medicare has been the best health insurance “policy” my wife and I have ever had. The only possible reason I can see for our politicains resisting it is the power of the healthcare insurance lobby.

  6. I too believe “our nation has a moral obligation to provide health care.” Thank you, Timothy Johnson, for supporting Medicare. We, as senior citizens, have benefited much from it.

  7. Thanks Dr. Tim, for cutting through all the “stuff” with such a clear and focused message. Hopefully one day wisdom and good sense will prevail.

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