By Kathleen Healey, M.D.
Napa Valley Register, August 27, 2021
In a recent column, Dan Walters notes that Gov. Newsom has not fulfilled his promise as a single-payer champion. (“Newsom slow-rolls single-payer health care promise,” Aug. 16) He suggests that the governor is leaning toward incremental change to expand health care — a “heavy financial lift.”
The most cost-effective way to universal healthcare is with the government as the single-payer, which most of our allies have discovered. Why? 97% of the money goes to healthcare services and we save large sums of money by not sending 25-30% of our health care dollar to our middlemen for-profit insurance companies who use it for advertising, CEO salaries, shareholder profits, lobbyists, and large banks of administrators who deny services to patients, and payments to doctors, in order to increase their own profits.
Raising your taxes to pay for universal healthcare is a scare tactic to make you think your costs will rise when, in fact, most people will pay less. Think of the employee portion of your insurance that comes out of your salary, your co-pays, deductibles, and drug costs. America’s healthcare system is the most expensive in the world and ours scored last out of 11 countries in The Commonwealth Fund’s most recent report.
A tax paid by everyone would be fair, less costly for most and families would no longer have to worry about medical debt, bankruptcy, or losing insurance with job loss, as we saw with the pandemic.
Incremental expansion of Medicaid and ACA is more expensive for the state and gives people insurance cards that many physicians will not accept, forcing more trips to emergency rooms, a costly alternative. With a single-payer, physicians have the same fee schedule for every patient, and submit their bills to one payer only, as is done with Medicare. This markedly reduces administrative costs for everyone, which currently amount to $815 billion each year nationally.
The California Legislature under Gov. Newsom’s direction has created the Healthy California for All Commission to study single-payer financing. It is continuing to meet during the pandemic. The commission will send its recommendation to Newsom when it concludes its study.
With the big money on the side of the status quo, popular demand is needed to convince our governor and our legislators that we want healthcare to be considered a common good, like fire services, and elementary education, as it is in most countries, and not privatized for profit. A healthy state is a more productive state and more preventive care will reduce future health expenditures and improve our lives.
Remember, single-payer healthcare is not socialized medicine. Doctors’ practices and hospitals remain private. What changes is where their invoices are sent. Specifically, invoices go to a single government agency instead of a multitude of for-profit insurance companies.