A simpler approach to health care

By Aatif Mansoor, Channing James and Jenny Zhang
Minnesota Daily, Letters, Feb. 11, 2015

We are medical students who have devoted eight years of our lives to educating and training ourselves, along with three to seven more years of training left for our chosen specialty.

We don’t put ourselves through all of that because we have a penchant for staying in school, purchasing expensive textbooks and accruing student loans — we do it so we will be able to properly take care of our future patients.

During the application process, we are all asked to write a personal statement about why we want to go medical school. I would wager that 100 percent of the responses from my classmates and from across the nation included some verbiage that referred to wanting to help people.

But as we have learned more and more about the system in place to take care of people in this country, we have become more concerned.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act has gotten more Americans insurance coverage — but what kind of coverage? Increasingly, ultra-high deductibles and copays are making patients reluctant to seek care when they need it — and vulnerable to financial ruin when they do.

America spends plenty on health care — twice per capita as other industrialized nations — but with staggering inefficiency. Administrative overhead devours 31 percent of our health spending.

It’s our health insurance premiums that pay for those catchy health-maintenance organization commercials, ads that cover an entire light-rail car, marketing departments, underwriters, lobbyists, eight-figure insurance executive salaries and handsome investor profits. None of this has helped us take care of our patients.

What if we redirected those wasted health care dollars into actual health care, while ensuring that all citizens have access to quality care?

This is the case for single-payer health reform.

The power of single-payer health care is its efficiency.

It replaces the dizzying labyrinth of private insurance plans with a single, unified public-financing stream. Yet it maintains the private practice of medicine, encouraging market-based competition where it matters — among providers.

Single-payer care streamlines payment for health services and products by establishing uniform, transparent pricing.

It replaces the costly, cumbersome practice of itemized hospital billing with global annual budgeting, removing layers of hospital administrators and bloated billing departments.

Most importantly, single-payer care guarantees quality coverage to all, removing crippling out-of-pocket liabilities.

The win-win is that we as future physicians would be compensated fairly for every patient we treat, while our patients no longer fear crushing medical bills and visits by debt collectors.

Because we believe single-payer care is the most sensible, equitable and sustainable way forward, we are members of the Minnesota chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates for universal coverage through single-payer reform.

We currently have support from over 1,000 fellow Minnesota physicians, medical students and other health professionals who have signed the resolution in support of single-payer.

We encourage all University of Minnesota students at our institution to learn more about the single-payer system and consider supporting the movement.

The authors are University of Minnesota Medical School students.

PNHP note: The text above was originally published in two parts, one on Feb. 10 and the other on Feb. 11. They’ve been combined here for the reader’s convenience.