Why we need a single-payer system
Healthcare isn't cheap anywhere, but Oregon's healthcare (like the 49 other states) is more expensive than anywhere else in the world. For what Oregonians pay in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, citizens in other countries get 100 percent coverage for all treatable diseases. But Oregonians simply consider ourselves lucky if we dodge bankruptcy when our family needs care.
Why is healthcare in Oregon so expensive?
It's not the usual suspects: waste, fraud, and abuse. It's the unusual suspects: the people who handle our insurance money.
These insurance administrators are not evil. They are, instead, a product of our uniquely expensive healthcare system. This requires every billable event to determine: Was the patient insured by that company at time of service? Did the patient's benefits cover the condition? Did the benefits cover the treatment? Did the physician follow pre-authorization procedures? Was the physician in network? Did the diagnosis and procedure codes match? Then we repeat this 30 percent of the time because insurance companies deny 30 percent of all first claims.
The result is a 20 percent surcharge on our insurance, even discounting physician time to complete the claim in the first place. It does not include deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-network expenses. It's simply the cost of billing.
Enter Bernie Sanders.
Sen. Sanders did not invent single-payer healthcare, nor is he the first to introduce a single-payer bill. In fact, single-payer healthcare was invented before he was born, here in the Pacific Northwest. An American industrialist, Henry J. Kaiser, had the idea that keeping his employees and their families healthy would make him more money (actually, the idea came from his company physician Dr. Sidney Garfield). They were right.
The basic concepts of the 2017 Sanders "Medicare for All" single payer bill are the same as Kaiser's plan from the 1930s: Include everyone, treat treatable conditions, and pay physicians with administrative simplicity. Time validated these concepts. They are now emulated by almost every large American business that uses the Kaiser single-payer model and by every developed nation that provides universal care. The U.S. is the last to get the message.
Unlike other Senate proposals, which save money by excluding sick people, withholding benefits, or underpaying providers, single payer converts administrative overhead into healthcare.
We know this works because it's done every day by corporate single payer plans in the U.S. (called "self-funded") and national single payer plans in Australia, Taiwan, Denmark, Israel, and a few dozen other countries.
All these single payer plans provide better care to more people for less money.
Sen. Sanders may be the most dramatic American advocate, but he's not the only one. Most of Oregon's Congressional delegation already endorse single payer, including Senator Merkley and Representatives Blumenauer, Bonamici, and DeFazio. The only hold-outs are Sen. Wyden and Rep. Walden, and they need to hear from us. Oregonians want better care to more people for less money. We want our congressional delegation to make it happen.
Oregon hasn't solved its healthcare crisis by rounding up the usual suspects. America's biggest corporations and our civilized neighbors internationally teach us how to get better care: single-payer healthcare. Sen. Wyden and Rep. Walden, are you listening?