By James Whalen, M.D.
Chicago Tribune, July 4, 2017
As the Republicans’ attempt to radically reduce health care benefits for the economic disadvantaged and simultaneously provide huge tax cuts for the rich, the current legislation to repeal Obamacare is on life support.
In light of the gridlock it is easy to speculate that the country is heading toward single-payer health care.
What “single payer” means deserves clarification, as opponents of this so-called Medicare for all equate it with socialized medicine. This is pure demagoguery.
Socialized medicine is a system of health care in which the government owns all medical facilities in the system and employs all health care personnel, including professionals. Health care administered by the Veterans Administration is an example of this.
“Single payer” simply means that there is one insurer, the federal government. Medical providers will continue as they are now: independent agents who bill insurers (i.e., the government) for services rendered.
Hospitals that successfully attract patients will have more revenue than unsuccessful hospitals, and physicians will enjoy more reimbursement for services the more they work. Competition will still thrive.
In addition to its simplicity, Medicare for everyone will be much more efficient.
With this system, there will be no exorbitant salaries for health care executives (nor multimillion-dollar severance packages), no advertising costs that raise insurance premiums, and no need to service stockholders.
America has tried competition in the health care marketplace, and that left about 40 million people without medical insurance.
Obamacare clearly has its warts and the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage it have put it in an ever more precarious position.
It is time to move to a single-payer system.