One of the great benefits of an opinion blog is that the blogger – in this case me – can state a pure opinion even if there are no ready facts to back it up. Oh, it helps to have an occasional fact or two just to add legitimacy. And I’ve got a few for this one. But the next statement is pure opinion. Conjecture, if you will. Mine.
This nation is going to one day have a single payer health program. It will likely be government-operated from a special pool. It may involve dozens of private insurance companies in some role. It may be a combination of several sources, maybe some I haven’t thought of. But it’s going to happen. Take that to the bank.
When it does, there will be one big reason – just one – for its creation. Spineless, cowardly, job-protecting politicians of both parties. They will have failed to develop satisfactory alternatives, even as their constituents get older and sicker. A lack of political will – guts – will make it so
Some oppose single payer; some support it. I’m one of the latter. I support it for a couple of reasons. The first is the paragraph above. Costs of health care will keep rising dramatically with no effective action by this nation’s gridlocked political system. Americans by the tens of millions will be priced out of medical coverage while politicians cover their butts. This will create more costs and our present “system” will crash and burn under the weight of political failure.
If you believe as I do, that basic health care is a right of citizenship in this country and not a privilege, single payer is the only way to fulfill that promise at a cost that can be sustained. If care for everyone – and I mean everyone – is paid from a single pool of funding from individuals, states, private insurers, employees-employers and all other sources – then the playing field will be leveled economically. Care for you and care for me – and costs – will be the same. There will be no “wallet biopsies” performed on prospective patients to see if we can pay for care.
Most people who oppose the single payer concept point to Canada as having so many problems because of it. Yes, Canada has some problems. So what? An American system need not be a carbon copy of what the neighbors have. Canada contracts with private companies for health care; England employs all the providers and insurers. Again, so what? We needn’t blindly copy either. Or both.
Single payer simply defines who pays. Not how the system operates. And it can be successful. Medicare is an example. Seniors get basic coverage and, if they want more coverage for more things, they can buy it. The concept works. VA care is another case-in-point. It works, too. Single payer.
Under single payer, doctors, hospitals and all other providers would bill a single entity. Currently, there are 1,500 private insurers. Consider only this one step if you want to reduce paperwork, time and cost of doing business in just this one area.
Doctors could do fee-for-service, join an HMO or be salaried with a hospital or clinic. That’s how most operate currently. They could negotiate fees with a single payer. If government were involved, it’s role would be administrative and not as an employer. And not as a decision-maker for care despite right wing ravings to the contrary.
Over the last five years, health insurance premiums have gone up 5.5 times faster than inflation, 2.3 times faster than business income and four times faster than worker earnings. Medicare has done a better job than that. Between 1996 and 2006, health care costs per person rose 4.6% annually for Medicare compared to 7.3% under private insurance.
My experience is when folks find out what a single payer system is – and more importantly what it is not – resistance to the concept sort of fades away. But the idea has been demagoged so much by politicians, fear mongering talk show goofballs and private insurance companies that most of us don’t know what to believe.
And therein lies the problem of why we will continue to cling to today’s system until it nearly breaks us as a nation. Gutless politicians and the hundreds of millions of dollars fed to them by insurance companies. It’s the insurers who are fighting hardest. They make billions in profits as things stand. Under single payer, if rates were set under the pool concept, those billions would be greatly diminished. They’d have to be happy with lots of millions.
Finally, here’s the cherry on top. In the U.S. House, H.R. 1200 has been introduced. “What would it do,” you ask? “Just one thing,” sez I. It would syphon off one percent of what we spend on health care annually to retrain displaced insurance company workers!
That tells you two things. First, single payer is coming sure as you’re born. Don’t know when. But it’s coming. And, second, the insurance companies will have their hand in our federal cookie jar to the last crumb. The very last crumb.