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Single payer is best option

By Michael C. Huntington, M.D.
Albany (Ore.) Democrat-Herald, Letters, Jan. 16, 2017

Thomas Kraemer (Jan. 10) implied that Medicare costs are unacceptable. He should quickly add, however, that Medicare has controlled costs and allowed better access to care for people of retirement age than private insurance has for everyone else. The average annual growth rate in Medicare per capita spending from 2000 to 2015 was 2 percent. The average inflation rate during that time was 2.1 percent.

Mr. Kraemer equated Medicare to a single-payer system, but Medicare is prohibited by law from being a single-payer system like those that are so successful in other countries.

For both Medicare and the general population, a medical procedure in the United States is priced not on the value to the individual or the population but on the value bestowed on it by an obscure committee (RUC) of the American Medical Association. The committee creates financial incentives favoring high-cost procedures over primary care, just the opposite of what is needed to control costs and improve health for any population.

Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry or use scientific method to determine what pharmaceuticals Medicare should pay for. To get a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, a company needs only to prove that the drug is more effective than a placebo, not better or less costly than an existing equivalent drug. The company then markets the drug at the highest price the market will bear.

Help create a Medicare for All, free from crippling restrictions. Visit Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates (www.mvhca.org).

Dr. Michael C. Huntington resides in Corvallis.

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