By Julie Keller Pease, M.D.
The Times Record (Brunswick, Maine), Letters, Oct. 7, 2015
I was interested to read the article in Friday’s Times Record about the “Broader health care debate for 2016.” Giving prominence to “single payer” makes sense because only a single-payer plan can cover everyone for all medically necessary care, eliminate financial barriers to care, and allow free choice of doctor and hospital. Single payer healthcare would also control costs. Noted healthcare economist Dr. William Hsiao, when he visited Maine in 2010, estimated that if Maine moved to a single-payer system of health care, the state would save $1 billion during the first year alone.
Currently, the criticism of single payer (mentioned in the article) is that it would require a tax increase. In his fiscal study of H.R. 676, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” economist Dr. Gerald Friedman estimated that 95 percent of all households would actually SAVE money. This is because any increase in taxes would be more than offset by a massive decrease in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Further, a streamlined single-payer system would reap about $400 billion annually in savings by slashing wasteful administrative costs, the government would be able to use its negotiating clout to bargain for lower drug and medical supply prices and it would be allowed to take other proven measures to save money.
Maine doctors support single payer. In January 2014, 450 Maine physicians responded to a survey question from the Maine Medical Association: “When considering the topic of health care reform, would you prefer to make improvements to the current public/private system or a single-payer system such as a ‘Medicare for all’ approach’? Nearly 65 percent of Maine doctors preferred the single-payer option, a jump from about 52 percent in a 2008 MMA survey that asked the identical question.
If you’re interested in learning more about health care for all, I urge you to visit the websites of Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) and Maine AllCare (www.maineallcare.org). Please join us in our advocacy for health care for everyone in Maine.
Dr. Julie Keller Pease resides in Brunswick.