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Single-payer system would control health care costs

By Cory D. Carroll, M.D.
The Coloradoan, Letters, March 25, 2012

In medicine, physicians use their training and experience to diagnose and treat patient ills. Over the years, I have witnessed a new condition, not covered in any of my medical school lectures or textbooks, that is at epidemic proportions and worsening. The condition is caused by an out-of-control parasite -- the for-profit medical insurance industry.

Decreasing pharmacy benefits, increasing co-pays and out-of-sight deductibles coupled with diminished coverage for care are the symptoms -- and there is no foreseeable cure. The for-profit insurance system covers the healthiest Americans and has perfected the art of sucking more and more money from business/patients (higher premiums) and providers (diminished payments) while increasing profits for their executives and shareholders. The governmental programs (Medicare, Veterans Affairs and Medicaid) that are responsible for our elderly, veterans and poor are also cutting back, but these patients are not experiencing the incredibly large increase in out-of-pocket expenses and rarely see a loss of expected services.

The Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act, known by some as "Obamacare," is a Republican-leaning bill (suggested by Nixon in 1974 and implemented by Romney in 2006) that was an attempt to control costs and protect patients. The two main problems with President Barack Obama's bill is the legislation is phased in during a four-year period (i.e. it will not be until 2014 until all aspects of the bill will be in place) and it keeps the for-profit insurance industry as a central player (our elderly, veterans and poor still will be covered by the government). The delay in implementing the bill has given the insurance industry ample time to outmaneuver the aspects of the bill that will actually control costs and protect patients. Already, several provisions that should be in effect now have been modified to accommodate the for-profit insurance industry's whining.

If you support American jobs and desire a stable economy, you need to understand how the lack of medical coverage destabilizes our country. If we had an accessible health care system, for all citizens regardless of employment, businesses would no longer be burdened with escalating health care costs and would be able to generate more jobs -- for Americans. Additionally, having affordable access to health care for all citizens would allow entrepreneurs to flourish and allow others to break the corporate chains that keep them from starting private businesses.

If all Americans had guaranteed coverage for necessary medical care, then the medical delivery systems in our communities would be more financially stable and the cost shifting between the "haves" and the "have nots" would cease. Everyone would pay (through a progressive tax system) their fair share. It is insane that the wealthiest nation on the globe allows its citizens to incur personal bankruptcy when they suffer a significant accident or serious illness. Fun fact: The majority of medical bankruptcies occur to individuals/families with insurance.

A single-payer system is not a "government takeover of medicine." Rather, it is a shift in the financing of health care and would end the inefficiencies and greed of the for-profit insurance industry. It would be the best option to control medical costs and improve health outcomes. A single-payer health care system (not for-profit) is essential if America wants to have a sustainable future.

Dr. Cory D. Carroll lives in Fort Collins.

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20120326/OPINION04/203260307/Single-pa...