Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Background on Single-Payer National Health Service

Here's some well-written, informative reading when you have a few hours to kill . . . first, check out this diary from Daily Kos written by Dr. Steve B entitled "Single Payer National Health Insurance - pt1 - Introduction". Notice it isn't called "Universal Healthcare", which makes one instantly think of dreaded Canadian-style socialized medicine with long waits and bad doctors. That's because the key to lowering the cost of health insurance is having an entity with considerable bargaining power going up against the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies.

According to Dr. Steve: "Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.", which is exactly right and exactly what the rest of the civilized world offers its citizens besides the US.

He continues: "Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($7,129 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 46 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do."

The diary is a short yet elegant defense of single-payer health insurance, and I think he makes an air-tight case for looking to this structure as the direction health care reform must necessarily take in the years ahead. For more background on how our public health care system is completely failing the American people and how to fix it, Yale Political Science Professor Jacob Hacker's "proposal to extend Medicare to all working Americans is a very good start. (I also highly recommend his book "The Great Risk Shift", which I read in a couple of hours.)

Once you've read these articles, check out Part II of the Healthcare FAQ at DailyKos here, which answers the typical challenges the Right tries to throw up against Single Payer health insurance such as "Why not make people who are Higher Risk pay Higher Premiums", "Won’t competition be impeded by a universal health care system" and the golden oldie "How will we keep doctors from doing too many procedures?"

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