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Lawmaker who supports private health insurance should look into single-payer system

By Bob Balhiser
The Missoulian (Mont.), Letters, March 9, 2014

I was amused to read Joe Balyeat’s (March 3) guest column explaining why Obamacare is doomed to fail. He attempts to make his point by extolling the virtues of private health insurers who, as I see it, are largely responsible for the fact that Americans pay the highest costs for health care of any developed country in the world.

The fact is that we in the U.S. pay about 18 percent of our Gross Domestic Product for health-related costs, while all other advanced countries pay an average of 11 percent GDP. Put another way, that 7 percent difference in GDP in our economy amounts to nearly $1 trillion in annual costs that go to parasites in our health care system. Two of the most egregious of these parasites are the private health insurers that Balyeat defends, and big pharmaceutical companies; trial lawyers also push up system expenses by forcing doctors to practice costly defensive medicine.

Few developed countries are saddled with private health insurers, but those that are have tightly controlled and regulated systems that force insurers to compete aggressively with one another for customers. Many other developed countries have some variation of “single payer” systems that would be a lot like having Medicare For All. Americans could save about $ 1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) annually in health care costs with Medicare For All.

I’d like to see Balyeat consider these facts and explain why a “single payer” system would not be far better and more economical than one that relies on the private health insurers he seems to so admire.

Bob Balhiser resides in Helena.