Janet Miller is the immediate past president of Michigan Dental Hygienists Association (MDHA)
At a recent Detroit Economic Club forum, Scott Serota, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, spoke extensively about the state of health care in America as well as its future, including how we can make it more affordable while continuing to encourage innovation. When asked about the 2020 elections and how he would advise potential candidates crafting a workable health care policy, Serota said, “I’m a big believer in building on what works, and not just tearing things up for the sake of tearing things up.”
Having just served as president of the Michigan Dental Hygienists Association, I found these words resonated with me, particularly given the onslaught of radical health care proposals we have seen in the past several months from Democratic presidential candidates. While these proposals may vary in size and scope, they would all only serve to undermine our current health care system. We should instead be working to build on and improve the current system. This would have a particularly harmful impact on oral health care—here in Michigan and across the country.
Whether it is Medicare for All or a Medicare buy-in, a public option or single-payer system, any one of these government-run health care insurance proposals would create a one-size-fits-all system that could threaten access and affordability in dental care.
Dental health care professionals detect, diagnose and treat major oral diseases and conditions that can have a direct impact on a patient’s long-term health. Through immediate and preventative care, we contribute to lowering overall health care costs. However, and across the country, access, affordability, and coverage already act as major hurdles to proper dental care for too many families. I fear that the Medicare for All proposals currently under consideration in Congress—and similar plans being touted by various presidential candidates—could make things much worse.
A government-controlled health care system would undercut the ability of private and employer-sponsored coverage to compete in what would be a highly skewed marketplace. As these plans struggle—and fail—Michiganders and all Americans would gradually see their options reduced until only the government-run plan remains. Moreover, taxes would inevitably have to rise to cover the costs of such a massive government program. That’s why we still have yet to hear a solid answer from any candidate as to how their various proposals would be funded.
Certainly, there is still much work to be done to improve health care in America. But as Serota said in his address to the Detroit Economic Club, “Were I advising any of the candidates, I would say we spent, as a nation, a long time working on, debating and implementing the Affordable Care Act, and I would build on its successes.” Instead of threatening our entire health care system, let’s work to improve access, lower costs and increase coverage without disrupting the care or coverage that more than 90 percent of Americans enjoy today.