Health care forum looks at single-pay insurance

By Robert Wolfington III
Marshall (Minn.) Independent
January 24, 2009

MARSHALL - Dr. Michael DeBrule said he has seen a lot of his patients have to pass on important procedures because their insurance wouldn't cover it.

"There are a lot of un-insured people that I can't help even if I wanted to; even if I waved my surgical fees, they would still have $4,000 at the hospital (and other fees)."

DeBrule, along with supporters of a national single-pay insurance plan, discussed its feasibility and explained how it would work during a town hall forum Thursday night at the Marshall Area YMCA.

Dr. Ann Settgast, co-chairwoman of the Minnesota chapter of Physicians for A National Health Program, said a single-pay insurance program would provide care for all U.S. citizens, while at the same time save money compared to the current multi-payer system.

"The cost savings in single-payer comes from getting rid of the administrative waste in a multi-payer system," said Settgast. "You have providers filling hundreds of insurers, that is a lot more inefficient then if we are billing one payer."

Settgast said a single-payer system would provide more flexibility in choices for health care.

"If you were a patient in a single-payer system nothing would change very much for you assuming you currently have health insurance," said Settgast. "About 46 million people in America right now don't have any health insurance, and for them we would bring them into the system.

"For someone who already has health insurance, the only thing that would change is you would have a different insurer, except your insurance card would be the national insurance," she said.

Settgast said there is criticism of moving to a single-payer system because of the loss of jobs from insurance providers.

"One complaint you hear commonly is people would lose their job," said Settgast. "That's true, there is some superfluous work going on in the administrative sector. There are provisions in the state and national bills to allow for job retraining and also employment benefits for people who lose their jobs through this."

Settgast said a single-payer system would simplify a system that is complicated.

"There would be no role for private insurance, so the main transition would not be as expensive as it would be disruptive," said Settgast. "There would be some administration needed within a single-payer system, but you certainly wouldn't need the vast bureaucracy that we have right now to run this multi-payer system."

Settgast said PNHP is a national organization with 15,000 physician members advocating for a single-payer system.

Settgast said Minnesota has 2,000 physician members who support a single-payer system.

Settgast said the forum Thursday was an opportunity to address concerns from people including quality of care.

"A lot of our role is re-assuring people about maintaining high quality under a single-payer system, talking about where the cost savings would come from and how we can cover everyone," said Settgast.