By Brian Yablon, M.D. and Beret Fitzgerald
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Letters, October 17, 2018
In a recent gubernatorial debate (“Arguing the Rx for health care,” Oct. 11), Republican candidate Jeff Johnson claimed that under a single-payer plan, “we all lose our insurance and are forced onto one government plan.”
This characterization willfully misrepresents what single-payer means. In actuality, single-payer means that everyone would have a robust set of comprehensive benefits without the headaches and games of our wasteful multipayer system. Hospitals, clinics and physicians would still operate independently. There would be no more “networks” to restrict access to your preferred provider and no more worries that you would forfeit coverage if you lost your job.
As for Johnson’s fearmongering that public insurance would financially threaten rural hospitals, he should instead be worried about what’s happening right now. Nearly 75 percent of Minnesota’s hospitals are designated critical-access hospitals, located more than 35 miles from another facility. Last year, almost half were at risk of closing. Rural hospitals are disproportionately burdened by the cost of billing in our outrageously complex health insurance system. A single-payer system would eliminate this burden, empower hospitals to negotiate global budgets based on operating costs, and incentivize providers to practice in underserved areas.
Our current system is convoluted, inequitable and dysfunctional for urban and rural Minnesotans alike. A single-payer system, by contrast, would guarantee everyone access to comprehensive health care, save money and be publicly accountable. We should be demanding no less from our elected officials at the state and federal levels.
Dr. Yablon and Ms. Fitzgerald are volunteer board members of Physicians for a National Health Program-Minnesota.