Listen: Charles Mayo - health insurance, American Medical Association

MPR’s Paul Gruchow interviews Dr. Charles H. Mayo II about national health insurance. Mayo formed a Minnesota organization to push for passage of national health legislation.


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PAUL GRUCHOW: Yesterday, Dr. Charles Mayo II announced the formation of a new Minnesota organization to push for passage of national health legislation. And we talked with him about the details of the proposal he supports.

Both the health insurance industry, for which Dr. Mayo until recently worked, and the American Medical Association, of which he is a member, oppose a federally-controlled medical security system. Dr. Mayo explains why he disagrees.

CHARLES MAYO: The average person who is covered for health insurance, you say, well, I'm covered. Well, you're not really because I think there's about 30 million people who have no coverage at all in this. And the 30 million out of $200 million is a fair number.

PAUL GRUCHOW: Then the thing, that critics of the present system suggest is that even if you do have health insurance, many of the costs of medical care aren't covered by the average routine diagnostic services in the health checkups and the-- a good many things of that kind just aren't covered.

CHARLES MAYO: There must be some sort of a conspiracy, where you would feel that between the doctor, and the hospital, and the insurance company because there are numbers of insurance policies that will not pay unless you're in the hospital. And to be in the hospital in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, my word, you're talking about $100 hotel bill per day.

Now, the insurance companies are gladly to will pay that. And the doctors are willing to put the patient in to have his checkup, because after all, he's paid this insurance. And this is the only way his insurance will pay off is to put him in the-- I think this is a hoax. And one of the things that-- disservices that the insurance company is doing to our practice of medicine.

PAUL GRUCHOW: Would a national health insurance program like the one you're supporting eliminate the need for private health insurance companies?

CHARLES MAYO: Yes, absolutely. So unfortunately you'll find that the insurance companies exert a lot of pressure in Washington as a lobby. Because if there is national health security-- I'd rather not call it insurance. And for this reason, because I feel that insurance-- health insurance is not actually health insurance. It's sickness insurance.

They bet on you that you won't get sick and you say, yes, I will. And so, and they don't pay off unless you get sick. And then they underwrite you. And if you've got too serious of a malady, they won't insure you at all, and you'll have to stand the whole cost.

But sure, if there is a national health insurance or health security, they'll be out of business. I mean, selling health insurance. But perhaps, they might be able to write other insurance, such as wage, insure your wage while you're sick so that they have an out.

But I think that the business of-- and they're not interested in health. They're interested in just turning over the money. They're money handlers. They say, just let me hold your medical dollar and it'll only cost you about 49%. I'll take 49 and hand out 51 to the hospital or to the doctor.

It's a-- they handle it, but they don't do anything to lower the costs. Their high level-- or their top level becomes the hospital's low level of [INAUDIBLE]. In other words, if they say we pay up to $400 for an operation, lo and behold, that operation's minimum becomes 400. And so they're not doing anything to hold down costs, that is the private health insurance. They'd like to, of course, but they have no hold.

PAUL GRUCHOW: You'd think, in some respects, that the health insurance industry would have some vested interest in keeping health costs low. How come it hasn't worked that way?

CHARLES MAYO: I have been a medical director for Mutual of Omaha for five years-- associate medical director. And one of my observations is, they're very afraid of doctors. They're afraid to offend them.

And so that they will always say you're right. And they're afraid to bang and say, that charge is too high. They do it in some cases when they're really extraordinarily high, in places where you see extraordinary costs are at the University of Minnesota, Ramsey County.


CHARLES MAYO: I think that because of the teaching facilities, so that they spare no cost. And it's reflected in bills that I've seen through the insurance company.

PAUL GRUCHOW: Your position on the national health security measure puts you at odds with the American Medical Association, right?

CHARLES MAYO: Yeah. Although I belong to the American Medical Association, I feel that there's also vested interest here that keeps them wanting to have it the old way.


CHARLES MAYO: The system. In other words, we are taking care of our people here. There really isn't any crisis. All you have to do is-- this is their attitude or our fraternity attitude.

All you have to do is just pour a little more money into it in the way of tax credit to buy health insurance. In other words, let it be a free country. If they want to buy a health insurance, let them. Let them take it off their income tax.

Well, this is fine, but there are an awful lot of people who can't really afford it and who-- this means that you have to take a means test. And that means test is, I think, a degrading thing to say, do I fall in the poverty level or am I just above it? Therefore, can I take this much off my income tax? And anyway, pouring more money into an already antiquated system, I think, is not the way to do it.

PAUL GRUCHOW: Dr. Charles Mayo II talking about his support of national health security legislation. This is Paul Gruchow.


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