September 9th, 2013
by Michael C. Huntington, M.D., Corvallis
In response to a July 31 column about single-payer health care, Reginald Jensen, a retired insurance underwriter, strayed from credibility as he dismissed the ability of single-payer systems to lower costs (“Single-payer system is just too costly to work”).
In doing so he ignored the success of 22 wealthy countries and our own Department of Veterans Affairs, which use single-payer systems to provide better care for more people at far less cost than does the U.S. market-based health care system.
Single-payer can be defined as a type of financing system for health care such that one entity — on behalf of and directed by the public through government or a public/private agency — collects all health care fees and pays out all health care costs. Under such a financing system, health care can be delivered through both private and public providers just as it is now, but with the public setting standards of care and negotiating prices.
Jensen didn’t mention that the United States pays, per capita, twice as much for health care as other countries do and has poorer outcomes by many criteria, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization.
His claims — that European health care costs could surpass U.S. costs, that Europe’s humane health care systems somehow cause economic crises, that we can solve our health care crisis through more jogging or personal discipline, that taking care of all of us means indenturing some of us — are baseless.