single-payer-sign-4826As a member of Healthcare for All Oregon and a healthcare consumer, I have given a great deal of thought to the state of medical coverage in Oregon and nationwide. Currently, my husband and I have coverage through my husband’s employer. Previously I had coverage through my employers where I first saw the transfer of more and more costs to the employee through higher premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. Our current policy includes a $5,000 deductible that has to be met each year before the insurer begins to pay our healthcare costs. The high deductible was our only option for healthcare coverage to remain affordable.

As a former small business owner, insurance professional, and consumer I have experienced many aspects and consequences of the healthcare insurance industry . I have delayed healthcare checkups due to high deductibles, and I have been unable to hire employees due to the high cost of providing healthcare coverage. After research and discussions with other community members, I believe that a single payer plan would greatly enhance the lives of Oregon residents and businesses. My discussion in this article is to provide a brief definition of single payer healthcare coverage and the benefits it would provide to residents and businesses. As this is a complex issue, I hope to provide greater detail, a discussion of the pros and cons of single payer, proposed single payer financing options, and the misconceptions spread by the insurance industry, in future articles.

Single payer has a markedly different financing system for healthcare costs. With single payer, a single government run entity would collect healthcare fees and pay healthcare costs. Currently, thousands of healthcare companies such as healthcare insurers, billing agencies, HMOs, etc. have a hand in our healthcare pie. By replacing these thousands of entities, millions of dollars of administrative costs would be saved. Any healthcare provider in private practice can tell you the complexity of dealing with multiple insurance companies with varying coverages, forms and exclusions. Cost containment could be more easily attained through fee negotiation, bulk prescription drug and supply purchasing, budgeting and investment planning by one entity rather than thousands.

If the State of Oregon adopted a single payer plan, all Oregonians would receive comprehensive benefits including medically necessary and preventative services, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Medical care would not be dependent upon the ability to pay and would be available to all regardless of economic and employment status. One entity would pay healthcare practitioners, hospitals and other providers for services rendered. The healthcare consumer would be relieved of the burdens of deductibles, co-pays, pre-existing condition restrictions and the ability to pay for healthcare insurance. Many would avoid bankruptcies due to healthcare bills and would enjoy a much greater life experience without having to worry about healthcare costs and coverage.

Coalitions of physicians, businesses, and consumers are advocating for the establishment of a single payer plan. In addition to the potential benefits to state residents, businesses in the State of Oregon could see the following benefits according to the Business Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare and other organizations:

  • Reduced labor costs estimated at 10-12%
  • Reduced workers compensation cost, likely by half
  • Lower liability and auto insurance costs
  • Elimination of health benefits management costs and yearly insurance company and labor contract negotiations for healthcare
  • Healthier workforce personnel, less employee loss and complaints due to employer health coverage
  • More business capital available for expansion, product development and workforce growth
  • More money would be available to the consumer due to lower healthcare costs which would expand the state and business economy
  • Businesses could better reward employees and create greater job satisfaction resulting in less turnover
  • The State of Oregon could attract more businesses due to lower healthcare costs

Whether you agree with me or not, it is important that all factions in Oregon engage in meaningful dialogue on healthcare. Individuals, businesses and state and local governments are collapsing under the burden of the current healthcare system. The Affordable Care Act and Cover Oregon do not address many of the most serious issues in the cost and delivery of healthcare coverage in Oregon and beyond. Oregon has always been an innovator in healthcare, and I believe that we have the will, the size and the knowledge to create true healthcare reform.

Article by Susan Doherty – from the December 2013 issue of the Rogue Valley Community Press