A single-payer system makes sense

Letter to the Register-Guard, Saturday, February 23, 2013
By Jack Dresser, Springfield

Sensible Oregonians will heed Mary Sharon Moore’s Feb. 18 column encouraging support of statewide, universal, single-payer health care (“Oregonians’ courage can bring health care to all”).

And they’ll do so vigorously because the opposition mounted by the for-profit health care industry will be quite vigorous — predictably a blizzard of mail and TV propaganda against “socialized medicine.”

The well-heeled opposition will undoubtedly focus relentlessly on the politically toxic word “tax.”

But the funding vehicle is better understood not as a new tax but as health insurance premiums paid by employers, unions and individuals to a public administrator rather than to a plethora of for-profit health insurance companies motivated to minimize costs rather than to optimize care — as too many Americans have discovered through medical bankruptcies, excluded procedures and postponed treatments by the uninsured until it’s sometimes too late.

Single-payer systems are used by other industrialized nations who enjoy better public health equity and outcomes, as evaluated by the World Health Organization — and at far less cost.

The WHO ranked the U.S. health system 38th, near those of much poorer Dominica and Cuba, at a per-capita cost more than double that of most developed nations ($8,233 vs. $3,268 last year).

Single-payer systems have far lower administrative costs and no shareholder profits, with the savings spent on comprehensive universal coverage.

Under our current system, administrative costs nationally are more than double health care expenditures on heart disease and triple our expenditures on cancer.