Is single-payer health insurance an answer to healthcare problems?

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The American healthcare system is often heralded as the most advanced, efficient system of its kind in the world. President Bush has stated, “America has the best healthcare system in the world, pure and simple.”

My question is, “Compared to what?” If overpaying for healthcare plans, the consistent increase in prescription drug prices well beyond the rate of inflation, and the steady rise of the uninsured make it the best healthcare system in the world, I don’t want to know who comes in second place.

The New York Times recently presented one possible solution to our healthcare debacle: single-payer health insurance. The article states:

Yes, single-payer that much-maligned idea that calls for everyone to pay into one insurer, typically the government or a public agency. The insurer then pays doctors, pharmacists and hospitals at preset rates. Patients who want unapproved procedures and doctors not willing to accept the standard payment remain free to deal with one another directly, outside the system. Such a system makes it much easier to deal with the growing costs of medical care, like administrative expenses and prescription drugs. It could also reduce the mountains of paperwork plaguing the current system and provide insurance coverage for the 46 million Americans now doing without it. What more, as demonstrated in France, Britain, Canada, Australia and other countries with functioning single-payer systems, significant savings can come without hurting the overall health of the population.

The Blue Bayou blog from the Houston Chronicle offers a different viewpoint:

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Whether you like the idea of single-payer system or not, it seems reasonable to agree that a discussion of our healthcare system should start with an honest accounting of its costs, the amount of money that goes into overhead (such as the insurance industry), and the actual patient outcomes. So why are we, as a nation, convinced that our healthcare is the best when by most objective standards, it’s not? Why are we convinced that a single-payer system would lead to a government bureaucracy, when our privatized insurance industry bureaucracy eats up more healthcare expenditures than the government systems of other countries? Why are we convinced that private insurers must be more efficient, when the most efficient health systems in the US are those run by the government?

Is single-payer health insurance the way to go? Let me know what you think.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs. - Search. Compare. Save.

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