Friday, June 26, 2009

As MA Slashes Health Insurance Coverage, Doctors Offer Alternative: "National Single Payer Program"

by Dave Goodman

Somerville, MA - Saying that Americans already are paying more in taxes (and private insurance premiums) for medical care than any other country in the world but having worse "health outcomes" than citizens of other western industrialized nations, Dr. Rachel Nardin, President of the MA chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, explained Monday why her organization thinks a "single payer, universal coverage" type plan must be adopted as soon as possible.

Citing administrative costs - compared to Canada, health care in the U.S. cost 40% more, she said - Nardin called for a plan that virtually wipes out the private insurance industry.

Unlike corporate driven health care management, which can deny money for health care services based on market forces, Dr. Nardin, a neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said a program under which the federal government reimburses doctors and other care providers would result in a system where "�payment would never be denied" for an "expansive" set of treatments.

"Some decisions will have to be made. It's not that everything can be reimbursed. But you will have a system within which everything that is allowed; and that the view of what is allowed will be expansive; I mean Americans are not going to stand for having care that's not of good quality. But we've seen in these other countries that are already spending less than us, they give people everything they need. And their health outcomes are better.

"So I don't think we need to worry that we won't be getting enough. And within that rubric, everything will be covered; all that fighting [to convince insurance companies to pay for treatments] is done away with."

In contrast to the single payer concept, the health care reform plan envisioned by President Obama uses the Commonwealth Connector system established in Massachusetts three years ago as a model. That system uses a mix of public funds and private insurance coverage to reach towards a stated goal of universal health care.

But costs for the Massachusetts program are rising rapidly. A Physicians for a National Health Program sponsored report released in February of this year found the "Massachusetts plan has also failed to make health care sufficiently affordable or to control costs�"