Anesthesiology News, October 2015 | Volume: 41:10
Commentary by Samuel Metz, MD
ontrary to what talk show hosts may tell us, single-payor health care was not created by foreign socialists intent on destroying the fabric of our American free enterprise system. Henry J. Kaiser, an American capitalist watching his construction workers labor in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, had three innovative ideas (in reality, Sidney Garfield, the company physician, initiated these ideas)1:
If he kept his employees healthy, they would be more productive and he would make more money.
If he kept his employees plus their families healthy, he could attract and keep productive employees and make more money.
If he paid physicians directly without an intervening insurance company, he could reduce his costs and make more money.
Kaiser (or rather Dr. Garfield plus Harold Hatch and Alonzo B. Ordway, other executives who worked for Kaiser) was correct on all counts. The Kaiser single-payor health care system (also known as “self-funded”) became the preferred health care model for almost every large American corporation plus all U.S. government programs. As of 2013, approximately 75 million Americans received care through private single-payor systems2 and 107 million more through public single-payor systems.3 In both private and public populations, single-payor health care provides better care to more people for less money than private health insurance4—and that’s why single-payor programs are popular.