We can do better with health care

By Glen Peterson
Mankato (Minn.) Free Press, Letters, Dec. 8, 2015

Speakers from Germany, Canada and Great Britain recently described health care systems in their respective countries at a Health Care Conversation forum in Minneapolis. Systems in the three countries use various public and private combinations for funding, and for delivery.

Despite some differences, they have much in common. Foremost is that all citizens are included and all have the same coverage, which is equal to or better than most insurance policies in the U.S.

Each of these countries produces medical and public health outcomes that are comparable or sometimes superior to those in the U.S. Each country provides patients freedom to choose medical providers. And, each of these countries spends approximately half as much money per capita when compared to the U.S.

Reforms in the U.S., including electronic medical records, medical homes, and high deductible insurance policies, are not generating the savings that policy makers hoped they would. Prohibitive out-of-pocket expenses cause an estimated 25 percent of adults with individual insurance to forgo medical treatments, according to the Families USA. Meanwhile, insurance premiums continue to rise.

We can do better. Opposed to unproven, unsuccessful reform efforts in the U.S. to date, examples from other countries and from many empirical studies conclude that a single payer system is a viable way to achieve successes similar to those described from the three countries listed above.

One study in Minnesota was produced by the Lewin Group, a health policy research subsidiary of United Health Group. In their 2012 report, Lewin concluded that a state-level single-payer system could provide comprehensive coverage for all Minnesotans while saving thousands of dollars for businesses, employers, and patients.

Glen Peterson, Ph.D., resides in Mankato.