Medical billing system needs streamlining

Dear Editor:

To meet the coronavirus crisis, our medical billing system needs to be streamlined into an emergency system, like this one:

  • All medical care to everyone provided at no cost, retroactive to March 15.
  • All patient and insurance billing suspended.
  • All costs to providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc. to be paid through Medicare at 130 percent of current Medicare/Medicaid rates.
  • All health insurance companies to suspend operations by April 20.
  • Everyone needing medical care for any reason will receive medical care, but crisis protocols for postponing or denying non-urgent care apply.
  • Fraudulent billing to Medicare to be investigated and prosecuted aggressively.
  • This system to be in place until March 1, 2021, or until a coronavirus vaccine is approved and available.

Yes, this looks suspiciously like Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all.” Debating about whether Medicare for all is a good idea for normal times can wait. But as an emergency system to meet this crisis, it makes good sense.

An intended consequence: several hundred thousand people will be laid off, including health insurance company employees, medical billing workers in hospitals and medical practices, and human resource employees who administer employee health insurance plans.

Medicare will hire perhaps 5 percent to handle its increased workload. The Justice Department will hire perhaps 2 percent to help combat fraudulent Medicare billing. Ninety-three percent remain available — all will be invited to train as temporary health care workers. Many will already have some medical training and experience.

Let’s do it!

David Paul Henry


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