The business case for single payer

By Bennett Hall
Corvallis Gazette-Times, May 20, 2016

As the owner of MCS Industries, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of home décor products with 160 employees, Richard Master has firsthand experience with the relentlessly rising cost of health care, for both companies and workers.

Last year, he said, it cost his company $18,000 for each employee with a family health plan. This year that figure rose by more than 14 percent — the latest in a string of double-digit annual increases that have pushed MCS Industries’ bill for employee health coverage to $1.5 million a year.

Costs keep going up for his workers, as well.

“Insurance comes with deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses that make it not such a good deal,” he said in an interview this week. “And it doesn’t really have to be that way.”

Master is a convert to the cause of single-payer health care, a government-sponsored system that would eliminate the multipayer welter of private insurance carriers we have now and replace it with a single health plan for every American, a proposal sometimes known as Medicare for All.

He’s become so passionate about single payer that he’s produced a documentary on the subject called “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” and he’s been traveling the country screening the film and speaking to business people about a health care system he believes is crippling the economy.

Now he’s teamed up with Health Care for All-Oregon and the state chapters of Physicians for a National Health Program and the Main Street Alliance for a six-city swing through Oregon, including a stop next week in Corvallis.

On Wednesday, Master will meet for lunch with a group of local business leaders and elected officials, then host free public screenings of “Fix It” at 6 and 7:30 p.m. at the Darkside Cinema, 215 S.W. Fourth St. Each showing of the film will be followed by a discussion.

A single-payer system as envisioned by Master would use individual and employer taxes to cover all medically necessary care through the current private delivery system. By eliminating the administrative burden of multipayer billing and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, he argues, Americans could slash about $500 billion a year from a national health care bill that currently runs to $3 trillion annually.

It’s an approach that’s already providing better outcomes at much lower costs in other developed nations such as Canada, Germany and France.

“The U.S. really is the anomaly,” he said. “We are the outlier, and the rest of the industrialized world is following a different model, a much more efficient model, and that is single payer.”

By focusing on issues of cost and inefficiency, Master is hoping to persuade other business leaders to back the movement to bring single-payer health care to the United States.

“What we say to them is that single payer costs less,” he said. “It costs less for the company in basic care, and it will take away from the company the requirement that they are responsible for providing medical care for employees.”

Removing that burden from U.S. businesses, he said, would make them more competitive in the global marketplace. In the meantime, American firms — and American workers — are struggling under health care costs that are much higher than they need to be.

“This is 18 percent of our entire economy right now. In other countries, it’s generally 9 to 11 percent,” Maser said. “We’ve got to get it under control.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.