By James Besante
Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 25, 2012
Winthrop Quigley, “Health Care Landscape Changing” published on Nov. 13, is quite correct that the chaos and disruption being experienced by thousands of New Mexicans who must choose between their medical care provider — doctor or nurse practitioner — and their Lovelace Health Plan insurer is a very strong argument for a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all health system.
With single-payer, similar in many ways to Medicare, every patient gets to choose his own provider and hospital. The government, using tax dollars, is the sole insurer and the patient never receives a bill.
No other Western nation, all with single-payer or nonprofit government-regulated insurance, would allow their citizens to be mistreated like the Lovelace patients.
Quigley understands this but casts doubt on research showing a single-payer system would cover everyone and be less costly than our extremely expensive and wasteful system. Such doubts are unmerited.
Multiple studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Aug. 21, 2003, have shown that hundreds of billions of dollars a year could be saved by streamlining the administrative costs that result from having hundreds of private insurance companies. Nonpartisan government agencies including the Government Accounting Office (1991) and the Congressional Budget Office (1993) have reached similar conclusions.
Here in New Mexico, The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, found in 1994 that single-payer reform could save $151.8 million and cover all the uninsured. A more recent Mathematica study (2008) found even greater savings.
Yes, the health care system is certainly undergoing rapid changes. The question is whether these changes will ultimately be in the interest of patients or of the investor-owned corporations such as Ardent, the owner of the Lovelace Health Plan.
Quigley points out that “Obamacare is designed to preserve the insurance industry.” Thus, under the Affordable Care Act, we can expect to see more disruption of care that we are seeing at Lovelace.
The reliance on the private insurance industry is the plan’s fatal flaw and will lead to its eventual failure.
We must lay the groundwork now for the single-payer, Medicare-for-all system that will better serve my patients and all New Mexicans.
James Besante is co-chair, N.M. Network of Health Professionals for a National Health Program.