Why Pennsylvania should opt for single-payer health system

By David Steil
Erie Times-News, July 6, 2012

When asked, almost all Americans will say that access to health care is of major concern to them. But access means different things to different people. For some who have chronic illnesses, it is how to pay for the continuing costs of treating the illness. That may mean paying for health care insurance and its deductibles and co-pays, or it may mean having the ability to acquire health care insurance even if cost is not an issue. For others it may mean having the ability to manage one's own health care along with their medical professionals and not having to subject themselves to the dictates of the health insurance carrier.

Those who do not have health care insurance and do not have the financial ability to pay for it must live in the constant fear of injury or illness, which would devastate their personal finances and potentially destroy the economic future of themselves and their family.

There is no question that this country has the finest medical care in the world. Our ability to identify, manage and treat injury and disease is without peer. But, all of that is valueless if one does not have access to the system. While it is true that everyone will ultimately be treated, even if they do not have health care insurance, it is not free. Someone has to absorb the cost. That normally means that doctors, hospitals, government and insurance carriers (through higher premium costs for their policy holders) all share the costs in some proportion.

In March 2010 Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This landmark legislation addressed some health care issues, but also left many questions and legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the act which means that the various provisions will continue to be implemented, mostly by 2014 but also continuing through the end of the decade. One provision is that states may propose their own innovations in health care, provided that those innovations do not fall below the requirements of the PPACA. As the law is written, this cannot occur until 2017.

In Pennsylvania citizens from all walks of life have banded together in an organization known as Health Care 4 All PA. We believe that resolution of the health care issue begins with allowing the states to adopt health care programs tailored to the needs of their residents. Moreover we believe that a single-payer system is the most cost-effective and economical method of delivering that health care. Research data and economic analysis supports that conclusion. Huge costs of the present health care system are eliminated through reducing or eliminating extensive administrative, marketing and management costs.

Single-payer means, simply, that every Pennsylvania citizen would be provided health care with the expectation that every citizen and every business would contribute to its cost. It is clear that those costs would be significantly less in total than the costs of the current system, which leaves many Pennsylvanians without health care protection.

Our organization is committed to moving forward with a single-payer model and to be prepared to join other states including Vermont, Hawaii, Montana and Washington by 2017 with the implementation of the proposal.

Legislation has already been introduced in the Pennsylvania House (HB 1660) and Senate (SB 400). Even though PPACA is now the law of the land, it still leaves many Americans and many Pennsylvanians unprotected. Therefore, now is the time for new efforts and new ideas to ensure that all of our citizens have the comfort of knowing they will be able to utilize the best health care system in the world when they need it.

But it will not happen until and unless the people of Pennsylvania make it happen. Learn about the single-payer option. Study the alternatives and then decide what works best for you and your family. Finally, contact your state representatives and state senators and ask them for their ideas. Remember that this is an election year. They will listen. Ask them to support and fight for the health care solutions that will benefit every Pennsylvanian.

David Steil, of Yardley, is president of Health Care 4 All PA and owner of a manufacturing business. A Republican, his 27 years of experience in government includes serving as township planning commission, a township supervisor and in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.