Simple solution — single payer

By Rochelle Dworet, M.D.
Health Policy Solutions (Denver, Colo.), Dec. 23, 2013

So the Affordable Care Act is finally being implemented, even online.  Our state has its own exchange, which seems to run better than the national model.  The people in the states that implemented their own exchanges are all busy heaping accolades on each other. However, the real question is, “Where is the single-payer solution that would save hundreds of millions of dollars and lives?”

Our fiscally prudent cohorts should want a system of private care or whatever the provider fancies with a low overhead to administer, and one that covers everyone — namely single payer.  After all, let’s remember that Medicare was implemented within six months of passage using one’s Social Security number and all the relevant information documented on index cards.  No fancy computer system was required with exorbitant expenditures to make it work. Now seniors love their Medicare, as witnessed by the signs, “Government, hands off my Medicare.”

Unfortunately, the big PR firms, lobbyists and corporate giants that control the medical empire make way too much in salaries and bonuses to care about what is good for people.

We recently mourned the loss of one of the greatest civil and human rights activists ever, Nelson Mandela.  Yet, we forget that the United Nations decreed that health care is a human right.  We, as a civil society, have an obligation to all our brothers and sisters to afford them health care regardless of financial means.

But no, as Steven Brill pointed out in “The Bitter Pill,” his Time Magazine article last March,  hospitals and clinics charge as much as they can get away with based on some medical fiction called the “Chargemaster,” a system more suited to a Star Wars movie than to humanity.  Is it any wonder that we are the only developed nation with a 62 percent bankruptcy rate due to medical debt, and two-thirds of those people had insurance!

As a physician, I know that medicine does not fit a business model.  Each time a patient enters into a discussion and examination for care, she breaks the mold of another algorithm and diagnostic code.  Providers need to use their skills to fullest capacity and be compensated fairly whether they are in primary care or a narrower specialty.  It is a team approach that creates success at wellness.

Our current system of grabbing for dollars perpetuates greed and discontent among healers. The answer to the problems with Obamacare is exactly what Mark Shields said on Inside Washington on Oct. 27, “Two words: single payer.”

Dr. Rochelle “Shelley” Dworet is president of Health Care for All Colorado, a group advocating for a public universal health care system in Colorado.