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PNHP RESOURCES

Health care costs matter and single-payer would help

By Ray Bellamy, M.D.
Tallahassee Democrat, August 7, 2018

Health care is too expensive. We can nearly all agree on that. But the public knows its importance as well as its expense.

Efforts by the Trump administration to wound Obamacare with availability of policies aimed at the non-sick, labeled by some as “junk policies,” have not yet destroyed the ACA. And voters rank health care as a high priority.

So how do we make health care more affordable? Technological advances are expected to keep costs rising inexorably. Recent embrace of Medicare for All by the public and many Democrats has encountered strong pushback from entrenched interests.

A recent analysis from the George Mason University Mercatus Center, a known Koch-funded economics outpost, predicted some $2 trillion in savings over a decade if the nation shifted to a single payer system to replace our current $3.5 trillion a year hodgepodge of both public and private payers.

How can this be? Everyone covered with comprehensive health insurance and costs of the system reduced? The key is the simplicity of single payer, with its massive reduction in overhead, along with elimination of corporate profit.

All who interface with the health care mess we now utilize will recognize the waste at every level when a potpourri of partial coverage options and different panels of providers, approved medications, and duration of treatment — along with the varying co-pays, deductibles and associated administrative costs — are encountered. How much simpler to swipe a card with every citizen covered equally, an estimated $400 billion a year in reduced overhead.

Then imagine the additional benefits of lowered auto and homeowners insurance, workers compensation and personal injury costs if everyone is covered comprehensively. Add in the additional hundreds of billions a year in savings if Congress would back off their ban against negotiation for lower drug prices like the VA and other countries operate.

Those are the big savings of a Medicare for All system, but don’t stop counting other advantages: much of our ability to track effectiveness of treatments comes from access to Medicare records. We need ready information on what works for all ages of our citizens, as well as early alerts regarding disease outbreaks.

Health care should be available for all, as should ready information on the health of our population. Contrary to the objections of the ideologues and special interests, an estimated 95 percent of Americans would have lower health care costs under Medicare for All than they have now.

We can do this. We can provide comprehensive high quality care to all or our citizens, beginning at birth. And with less cost in our nation’s $3.5 trillion annual expenditure. The secret is in our wasted overhead, our administrative expense and corporate profit, which we can eliminate.

Dr. Ray Bellamy is a retired longtime Tallahassee physician and member of Physicians for a National Health Program.

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