Single-Payer Updates

by Chris Sturr | March 27, 2009

First, we noticed this excellent webpage, with links and resources on single-payer, from Physicians for a National Health Care Program.

Second, our friend Dr. Christine Adams, who is statewide secretary of Health Care for All Texas, sent us her response to an article in Wednesday’s WSJ by Laura Meckler. It’s an excellent summary of reasons in favor of single-payer. Here it is:

Dear Ms. Meckler,

I am a supporter of single payer national health care as proposed by
HR 676 (John Conyers, D-Michigan). All other health care reform
proposals involve some type of subsidy to private for-profit health
plans via low to moderate income households. It makes no sense to
subsidize private, for-profit health plans just for us to have the
privilege of having private companies continue to play a central role
in health care financing. Medicare Advantage is a perfect example of
that model. For the privilege of continuing to include for-profit
private health plans, the U.S. taxpayer gets to pay 14%-20% more per
Medicare recipient than for those in traditional Medicare (a single
payer model, albeit imperfect). For the privilege, we do not get any
value for our extra tax dollars. Medicare Advantage members do not
have better medical outcomes and frequently they have worse medical
outcomes – even though Medicare Advantage programs cherry-pick the
healthiest in the Medicare pool. And where do we find our best
medical outcomes at the best price? Our socialized medicine Veterans
Administration Medical System.

No other nation that is controlling health care costs while
maintaining quality has for-profit health insurance companies playing
a central role in health care financing because it cannot be done.
Other nations that include private health plans have placed heavy
regulations on them so that they cannot make profits, must offer
standard, comprehensive benefits, cannot exclude anyone or restrict
treatment and must go to the government (the citizenry) to get
permission to raise premiums. Nations that still include private
plans, still spend more than nations that have either adopted single
payer or straight-forward socialized medical systems (England, Spain).
Economically, it will cost you more to include private health plans
even if they are regulated. At any rate, I doubt our American
for-profit health plans would ever agree to the level of regulation it
would take to control costs, even without making health care
universal.

Frankly, I don’t understand why conservatives in Congress, such as
Sen. Grassley, would even consider subsidizing or protecting
for-profit health plans from a public competitor. If a public health
plan could deliver good care for less money, why wouldn’t we want that
system? Why would we want to use tax dollars to subsidize a
for-profit health plan? I already pay for-profit health plans plenty
of money for not much back in the way of health benefits. I don’t
want to direct more of my tax dollars to them just to keep them in
business. They are not an industry vital to our national security. In
fact, they suck up so much in the way of resources without adding
value back, they are a drain on our economy and our health. They are
detrimental to our well being in the same way that companies that
pollute are detrimental to our well being.

Two Nobel prize winners in economics, Drs. Joseph Stiglitz and Paul
Krugman, have publicly stated that single payer makes the most sense
for health care reform. They don’t strike me as socialists or
anti-business. To support a health reform measure that props up a
private business when a public entity could do as good a job for less
money seems opposite to what a conservative would support. When the
data from so many forms of national health insurance, none of which
include for-profit private health plans, are so clearly providing as
good or better medical outcomes as we have here in the U.S. but with
half the money and for all their people, I can only conclude that this
resistance by a minority to single payer comes from irrational fears
based on myths and outdated ideas in the same way that anti women’s
suffrage and anti integration are now seen as wrongheaded.
Unfortunately, this minority position of pro for-profit, subsidized
private health plans appears to have the ear of the Obama
Administration—at least for the time being.

Dr. Christine Adams
Statewide Secretary, Health Care for All Texas
Member, Physicians for a National Health Program

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  1. Actually, the page on single-payer resources was stolen (no attribution) from the PNHP page here:http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.phpI direct people quite frequently to that page from PNHP as an introduction to single-payer; it’s an excellent collection of information on the topic.

  2. Thanks, Mike. That would explain why it was just about the best page I’d ever seen on single-payer!

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