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Why single-payer health insurance means better patient care

By Phil Kadner
Chicago Sun-Times, June 23, 2017

Most doctors believe a single-payer system “would offer the best health care to the greatest number of people,” according to a survey by the Chicago Medical Society.

More than 1,000 doctors from the Cook County region participated in the survey and 77 percent of those responding had an unfavorable view of the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as a replacement for Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to supporting single-payer national health care, the doctors also expressed support for the Affordable Care Act, with 62 percent saying they had a “generally favorable” opinion of Obamacare.

Two out of three doctors, 67 percent, said they had a “generally favorable” view of a single-payer financing health care system.

The U.S. Senate version of health care reform had not been unveiled at the time of the survey, but given the response of the doctors, I think it is fair to say that it would not have received significantly greater support than the House version.

Dr. Ted Brown, president of the Chicago Medical Society, emphasized that the survey focused primarily on three options: Obamacare, AHCA — what is being called Trumpcare — and single-payer national health insurance.

I asked Brown why he believes most of the doctors responding to the medical society’s survey chose single-payer health insurance, which is available in the rest of the industrialized world.

His answer is likely to shock those who believe private industry is more efficient than the federal government.

Brown said that trying to comply with the regulations and paperwork required by dozens of private insurance companies offering hundreds of policies, along with Medicaid and Medicare, is burning doctors out and taking time away from patient care.

“As much as anything, it’s an administrative problem,” Brown said. Doctors may be required to take an opioid training course, for example, eight or nine times to satisfy eight or nine different insurance companies.

They would much rather have one administrative mandate handed down from the federal government.

The federal government? Can that be right.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a doctor complain about Medicare regulations,” Brown said. “They’re simple. They’re easy to understand. It’s easy to get an answer if you have a question.”

An astonishing 87 percent of the doctors surveyed agreed that in an ideal system basic health care would be available to all individuals as part of the social contract, a right similar to education, or police and fire protection.

I think the majority of people who oppose national health care don’t understand that private health insurance companies now dictate medical practice to doctors and many of their decisions are based on profit motives, having nothing to do with patient care.

And in many cases no one — including your doctor — knows who is actually making the health care decisions at the insurance companies.

Doctors are being forced to join health care groups and close their private practices because they do not have the time or the financial resources to comply with the paperwork demands of the private insurance companies.

And if doctors defend their patients too vigorously and refuse to comply with the demands of the insurance providers, they are cut out of the system.

“The results of the survey are very significant,” said Dr. Claudia Fegan, national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Care Program, which has led the fight for single-payer universal health care.

“Practicing physicians do not want to see ACA repealed and they believe the best approach is single-payer.”

http://chicago.suntimes.com...