Single-payer system would reduce costs over time

By Elmore F. Rigamer, M.D.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Letters, Sept. 19, 2014

Re: “Hospital administration costs consuming greater portion of the U.S. economy,”, Sept. 16:

The article on the high administrative costs in U.S. hospitals, while startling, is not surprising. The health care system is perfectly designed to give high costs and uneven quality. Each year the system becomes more complicated and expensive with dollars for administering it competing with dollars for patient care. Physician burnout is high, according to an August article in The Wall Street Journal, and people cannot figure out what health care costs are when they try to buy health insurance.

This is worth noting in New Orleans, as we build a billion-dollar hospital complex whose administrative expenses will compete with dollars for patient care.

There is a solution to the mess: a single-payer system. Medicare is an example, with 5 to 7 percent administrative costs and universal coverage. Other industrialized Western countries have a version of single payer, and Massachusetts and Vermont are experimenting with models that offer universal coverage. It is complicated and initially expensive, but a better alternative to what we have now.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), an organization that promotes single-payer health care reform, will hold its annual meeting in New Orleans in November.

Dr. Elmore F. Rigamer resides in New Orleans.