Gettysburg panel discusses pros and cons of Pa. single-payer health care

A proposed system would give coverage to all.

The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pa.), Oct. 6, 2011

A few years ago, Dr. Dwight Michael would have said he was not in favor of a universal health care system in Pennsylvania.

He believed, like many of colleagues, that a person has the right to choose their health care provider. But the Gettysburg physician said his views changed after he saw so many of his patients face the "unfairness" of the system - especially during the economic downturn when so many lost their jobs and had no health insurance.

"We're lead to believe that we have a great system in this country," Michael said. "But we don't."

Opponents and supporters of health care reform attended a public meeting Thursday night in Gettysburg to discuss a single-payer system that would give universal coverage to all in Pennsylvania. With nearly every seat taken in a lecture room at Lutheran Theological Seminary, the panel included Michael, Dave Steil, president of the group Health Care 4 All Pennsylvania and state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Conewago Township.

A bill introduced in the state's House and Senate in July 2009, would establish a system that is publicly funded but privately administered - similar to how Medicare works. Under the proposed system, individuals would be taxed 3 percent of their income, and businesses would be taxed 10 percent of their payroll.

Steil's group is working to support the single-payer health care bill - known as the Family and Business Health Security Act. While no state has yet passed a single-payer health care bill, 26 do have proposals like the one in Pennsylvania.

"We cannot have a system that leaves people behind," Steil said while talking about today's health care problems.

And the proposed health care system would not leave anyone behind, Steil said. Even those who have no income at all and cannot be taxed would still receive health care. Or say a Pennsylvania resident is attending college out of state, Steil added - that individual would still receive care in the college's state.

Moul, on the other hand, said the proposed system would take away a person's right to choose what health care services they want. Additionally, the lawmaker said, he won't support anything until he knows if it would be successful. Moul suggested an unbiased group conduct a study to see how well such a system would work in Pennsylvania.

Moul stressed that he was not expert on health care, but said he believes that if a child is sneezing and the parents bring the youngster to a doctor, taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for that appointment.

"People who truly need health care will get it," he said.

"It's too bad Moul still looks at it like that," Alan Olson, of Carroll Valley, said of Moul's view on the proposed system.

Olson, a supporter of the single-payer health care bill, said he attended Thursday's meeting because he's very concerned about health care.

But even though Moul was on opposite sides with Michael and Steil, all three panelists did agree on one aspect.

"Our health care system is broken," Moul acknowledged.