Sunday, June 14, 2009

Single-Payer Now Or Never

by Dee Newman

Despite the fact that the United States has the most expensive (spending more on health care per person, per year than any other nation in the world) and the most advanced medical technology in the world, in comparative study after study, the statistics show that the United States ranks at or near the bottom of all the major industrialized nations in the delivery of health care to its citizens.

Opponents of single-payer, universal health care fear and believe that the system will be too expensive and deprive them of needed services. They believe this in spite of the fact that the United States now spends at least 40 percent more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation that provides universal health care to its citizens. They believe it even though the U.S. system still leaves 48 million Americans without health care coverage and millions more inadequately insured.

Contrary to what opponents fear and believe, single payer, universal health care is not socialized medicine. It is a health care payment system. It is not a health care delivery system and is no more socialized medicine than the public funding of the defense department is socialized defense.

Unlike the current managed care system here in the U.S. which mandates pre-approval of the insurer for services and which takes health care decisions away from the doctor and patient, a single payer, universal health care system would not.

Financing a single-payer system would be done by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste.

A small increase in taxes would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business.

Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, mass purchasing, and universal budgeting.

Health care spending in the U.S. totals more than $2 trillion, or 16 percent of GDP. And, it is increasing every year. It is projected by the year 2017 health care spending will reach 19.5 percent of GDP.

The reason we spend more and get less for our buck than other nations is because we have a hodgepodge of government and private for-profit payers. We waste billions of health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: underwriting, billing, sales and marketing, as well as, huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with both bureaucracies. The overhead is excessive.

Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings is more than $350 billion per year and certainly is more than enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.

Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, long-term care, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

A government single-payer, universal health care system that is open to everyone and does not waste money on marketing, high paid executives, and dividends for shareholders, would be far more efficient than the mix-bag of government and private for-profit plans we now have in this country.

A universal government plan would also have the power to force the pharmaceutical industry and the medical supply industry to take sharp discounts compared with the prices they currently charge patients today.

Any health care plan that falls short of a single-payer, universal system will never work. In fact it will only increase the inefficiency and administrative costs of the system we already have and make it worse.

If you believe that the payment system we now have run by large insurance companies who believe that it is morally acceptable to make a profit off the misfortune of others is cost effective and provides you with good health care coverage, then by all means call your congressional representative and tell them.

But, if you believe as I do that the system we now have is abominable and morally corrupt, that all of us have a moral responsibility to help out one another and that the best way to do that is to pool our resources and work together, then tell everyone you know to call Congress. Bombard your senators and representatives with emails and phone calls. Organize and take to the streets if necessary. And, let the White House know how strongly you feel.

This is one of those battles where the silent majority must become vocal.

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