Unhealthy healthcare

April 20, 2017 10:17 AM

Alice Feller

California’s single payer senate bill (SB-562) is long overdue.
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The deficiencies in our healthcare system are glaring.

Americans pay more for medical care than any country in the world.  Yet on standard measures of health—life expectancy and infant mortality—we fare worse than our peers.

The U.S. is the only country among wealthy developed nations that does not have a government-funded universal, healthcare system.  Of 13 western nations studied by the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. is the only one lacking some form of single-payer system.

We’re told in the free market that “competition” will keep prices low. But the U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP on healthcare—twice what Canada spends and almost three times the U.K. Yet both countries fare better on standard measures of health.

In fact, this is not a free market. We’re forced to pay whatever the market will bear. Who’s responsible? The major players are drug companies, the medical device industry, the hospital industry, and the insurance industry. We pay twice what Canadians pay for the same drugs sold by the same pharmaceutical companies.

It’s the private insurance system that gets between the doctor and her patient.
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Need an MRI? You’ll pay $1145. The Swiss will pay $138.

Bypass surgery? Your tab is $75, 343. The Dutch: $15.742.

The U.S. has fewer practicing physicians for its population than almost any wealthy nation. We’re told that single-payer systems cause “long waits and rationing of care.” But the private insurance companies ration care for a simple reason—it saves them money.

Insurance companies maintain “skinny panels”—which means fewer doctors so that patients have a hard time finding a doctor with open appointments.

We suffer chronic illness—diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and cancer— in far greater number than our peers. The treatment of such illness requires the patient and doctor to work together in an ongoing partnership.

Those who argue that a single-payer system introduces government interference between the doctor and patient have it backwards. It’s the private insurance system that gets between the doctor and her patient.

Californians must opt for single payer. It’s the healthy choice.

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