I believe that there are three basic principles that must be upheld in a healthcare system. The first being that every person must be guaranteed access to quality healthcare regardless of race, gender, religion, diagnosis, or ability to pay. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Secondly, our healthcare system must provide health care for all in the most cost effective way possible.
And lastly, the aim of healthcare should be disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment.The current US healthcare system fails to uphold these basic principles. In spite of being the wealthiest nation in the world, millions of Americans lack access to healthcare because they cannot afford health insurance. Over 45,000 people die every year because they cannot visit the doctor when they need to.
Even though the US fails to provide coverage for all its citizens, we still spend almost twice as much per person on healthcare, when compared to other industrialized counterparts. This is due, in large part, to the inefficient and profit-driven bureaucracy that supports the healthcare structure. Lastly, and what I think is most concerning for the long term public health, there is currently a major gap between the number of primary care providers available and what is needed to deliver primary care to all citizens. This is problematic because primary care is critical to early detection and monitoring of chronic health conditions. In my opinion, this state of affairs largely stems from our financing model: the multi payer insurance system.
In this framework, hundreds of private insurance companies compete to provide individual’s coverage. The primary drawback with this system is that the search for profit by these insurance companies runs counter to the principle of access to quality healthcare. Millions of people are unable to obtain insurance from these companies, either because they cannot afford the premiums or because they have pre-existing conditions. Even those people who can afford the insurance mostly do not get sufficient value for their money. Insurance companies often do not completely cover all the needs of their patients. They can limit the number of benefits they will cover within a specific time period or create nefarious policies like life-time limits. Moreover, individual insurance company will only offer access to a select number of providers, limiting the options for middle class American families. These conditions point to the need for transformative change.
I propose that we should move towards implementing a single payer national health insurance model. The single-payer model is where one public agency finances all healthcare, but care is delivered primarily by the private sector. Importantly, this model meets all three principles I mentioned, which are critical to a healthcare system. First, complete coverage of the population is critical to a functioning healthcare system.
Single payer guarantees healthcare to all people, regardless of ability to pay. With this model, the government cannot discriminate like a private insurance company does and therefore coverage would be universal .To reiterate, healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
Secondly, single payer phases out a significant amount of wasted capital produced by the multiplayer insurance system. Multiplayer inherently creates a complex patchwork of procedures and bureaucracy because of the fussy policies of insurance companies. It forces hospitals and physicians to hire armies of staff solely for the purpose for administration. With single payer, these costs are largely eliminated because of the standardization of billing. Another form of savings is in the bargaining power that a single payer insurer would have. For example, single payer entity would be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prescription medication prices because the single payer would be able to buy them in bulk. Finally, single payer model has a significant incentive to focus on preventative medicine. By preventing disease in its population, overall healthcare expenditures are reduced.
Single payer therefore is more likely to pay for services that cost a lot upfront but will have significant benefits in the future. An example is teen smoking cessation programs, which multiplayer insurance companies avoid because it poses too much of an immediate cost. One of the most common arguments against the single payer model is that it will increase the burden on taxpayers. Admittedly, the single payer model would mean a raise in taxes for Americans. However, it is time to examine the value of saving a couple of hundred dollars a year, versus turning poor and sick people away from clinics because of their insurance policy. This runs counter to our values as Americans and as humans. Moving to a single payer system should be seriously considered as a potential solution to help our broken healthcare system.
Single payer is good for the healthcare industry, the American economy, and most importantly: the average American.