Single-payer health system

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By The Staff

Dear Editor,

I am a board-certified family physician unable to actively practice because of effects of bilateral breast cancer radiation on my immune system. When dealing with Los Alamos National Lab’s self-insured United Healthcare administered program, I was evaded throughout the appeal process until arbitration to pay for services that Medicare would have covered to determine the appropriate treatment for my breast cancer.  These tests incidentally saved over $30,000 for my treatment while allowing me to avoid cytotoxic chemotherapy.  Considering what happened to me as a physician in their system, I can only imagine what would have happened to a nonphysician.

When my sister lost her job last spring, she was turned down by Kaiser to continue her policy because her husband had controlled hypertension and elevated cholesterol.  She now has a $10,000-deductible plan.  We save money now that my parents Blue Cross plan was cancelled.

59 percent of physicians now would support a single-payer system.  Administration and profits make up about 30 percent of private insurance costs. Insurance companies do not provide or coordinate care, they just deny care, making choice in plans irrelevant. Plans do not encourage preventive care because the average insured person changes plans every two years. 

   Health spending per enrollee for comparable benefits grew at a rate of 7.3 percent a year under private insurance, compared to 4.6 percent under Medicare. Medicare’s administrative costs at 3 percent are well below the overhead of private insurers. This may change as the privately operated Medicare plans get bigger subsidies from the taxpayers than traditional government-run Medicare, about 17 percent more for fee-for-service plans often with less coverage. 

HR 676 was introduced to implement a single-payer health care system that covers all Americans regardless of preexisting condition or employment status and preserves choice by including all licensed providers. Financing is through sliding-scale taxation rather than employer mandates. The cost of this plan would be less than what we are currently paying with many uninsured now and worse health outcomes than most developed countries.  It has gained the support of 94 U.S. representatives, many unions, state legislative bodies, cities, counties, faith groups and other organizations that believe that basic health care should be a right.

Sen. Daschle does not feel that it is politically feasible to push the single-payer system despite its advantages, as I found out at the recent Health Care Reform Summit in Denver.  The public option must be maintained to cut costs and insure the uninsured.  Massachusetts has found it too costly to extend insurance significantly with its employer mandates. 

If  Republicans in Congress are stopping any healthcare reform if it contains a public option, they should do the right thing and drop their own public plan and get their own private insurance.

Health Care for All Colorado has a very detailed single-payer plan for Colorado that may be introduced in the next legislature.

Health care reform comments can be sent to the Obama transition team at Change.gov.

Linda Mulka, MD

Buena Vista, Colo.