Streamlined health system would save money, expand care

By Elmore F. Rigamer, M.D.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Letters, Jan. 15, 2016

Recent headlines speak of skyrocketing drug prices, rising health insurance premiums, high deductibles that discourage people from seeking care, and private health plans threatening to leave markets if they don’t make enough profit.

Our health system does not work. One-third of the nation’s $3 trillion health care bill is spent on navigating complexities imposed by the private insurance industry. We spend much more on health care than other countries, yet we have the most rationed (by cost) care in the world.

Today a family of four could pay $23,000 for health insurance and still face medical bankruptcy if a member has an expensive medical condition. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows about 20 percent of Americans who have health insurance have problems paying medical bills.

One solution is to cover everyone with an improved version of Medicare. Medicare’s administrative costs are a fraction of those of commercial insurers. With the resultant savings, about $400 billion annually, we could cover everyone and eliminate co-pays and deductibles. A streamlined, single-payer payer plan would also free up physicians to spend more time with patients, and it would help our national economy.

A fresh look at how the system works is at

Dr. Elmore F. Rigamer resides in New Orleans.