By Andrew Crane
SINGLE-PAYER HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: What Doctors Actually Want
The American healthcare system is run by businesses and business people. Politicians make the laws, while insurance companies are consulted in the process. They decide which groups of people deserve benefits and who should be left out. After almost a decade of debates over healthcare reform, it seems as though the doctor’s perspective on the policy has not gotten a lot of exposure.
Many physicians and providers believe in a single-payer healthcare solution, at which one body finances the coverage for all citizens. Instead of having multiple insurance companies providing the financing to the public, the State government or a similar agency would provide healthcare coverage for all citizens. Rather than paying premiums to private insurance companies, the public’s taxes would go towards funding the agency responsible for providing health insurance plans. Many Western European countries, and other developed countries, use a universal healthcare system.
The greatest benefit for a universal system is that it will provide a more efficient one. When comparing the United States with other developed countries, the US spends exponentially more than the rest of the developed world. However, we also have the lowest life expectancy in the developed world, indicating that resources are not being used as efficiently as possible.
In the current system, most of the premiums paid by policy owner go towards administrative costs, such as paying employee salaries. A Universal health care system would eliminate the massive administrative costs piled up from competing insurance firms because there would only be one agency providing coverage to the public. The single-payer system will only incur administrative costs from the one agency that is providing the health coverage, rather than the costs that are incurred by insurance companies trying to make a profit. Since State tax revenues would likely exceed any revenues from a private insurance company, there would be a much smaller risk of health insurance plans lapsing due to a firm going bankrupt. All citizens will have one health insurance policy that would provide them equal access to all healthcare providers as needed, instead of thousands of different policies that leaves groups of people underinsured.
While the ACA seems to provide quality health insurance benefits on paper, it is the most inefficient healthcare system in the world. There is so much complexity and confusion with the ACA because the policy is a multi-payer system that includes both private and government healthcare plans. Insurance companies alter premiums, deductibles and coverages for policy owners in order to help provide subsidized insurance plans for lower-income citizens. Many patients and physicians do not fully understand to what extent these changes have affected their coverage. As a result, patients end up paying more for treatment because doctors get confused on how to process the claims the way they need to be processed.
Risk pools are also factors in insurance companies pulling out of exchanges and driving up premiums. While the ACA made tremendous steps in providing healthcare coverage to all citizens, people will remain underinsured or uninsured because cost will keep going up as healthier younger people do not opt in to pay higher premiums and instead pay the penalty, leaving high risk patients requiring insurance. In addition, the complexity of the ACA will make people hesitant to opt-in.
A universal healthcare system would also direct most of its resources towards public health issues instead of administrative costs for private insurance policies. A single-payer system will be better suited to treat public health epidemics, such as opioid abuse and obesity, because a state government does not have to worry as much about making profits than a private insurance company. With the risk of going under alleviated by the massive pool of the public’s tax dollars, a universal system would be more effective in building more treatment facilities for drug addictions and creating campaigns to encourage healthy eating and exercise. In the current multi-payer system, patients who are affected by major public health problems pay more for coverage because the private insurance companies would likely have to pay more in claims. As a result, drug addicts and people with illnesses have a harder time getting the full extent of the treatment they need.
The new AHCA bill would make the US system even worse. Major public health epidemics could spiral out of control because patients could be denied coverage for necessary treatments for these issues. The AHCA allows insurance providers to deny coverage for certain treatments regarding drugs, maternity care and mental health. New health epidemics could also arise from the AHCA if patients are denied necessary treatments for certain illnesses. At the same time, private insurance companies would still be wasting resources on administrative costs to increase profits, instead of solutions to current public health issues.
The biggest opposition to a universal healthcare system is the fear of the unknown. Many people fear that the quality of health care will decrease as a result of the single-payer system because hospitals would become over-crowded and the availability of treatment would become scarce. There is a fear that people would over-visit their providers and hospitals would run out of necessary resources for treatment. While these are valid concerns, the costs associated with universal healthcare have generally been smaller than expected. Also, the United States is one of the most resource-abundant countries in the World, especially in medical resources. It’s safe to believe that if countries with a fraction of the United States’ wealth can implement a universal health care system, then the US can as well.
Andrew Crane is a guest writer and a business student