You may have heard of the recent tense negotiations of a business agreement between the Lexington Medical Center system and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Until a final agreement was reached, a lot of patients, employees and doctors were left wondering what to do, as doctors would have risked being dropped from the “in-network” status and many patients would have had to pay extra to continue to see their regular doctors or else change doctors.
These troubled negotiations are just one example of the problems with our country’s private health-care system, but there is a solution that is not often heard in the regular media outlets. It is called single-payer health care.
There is a single-payer bill up for discussion in the S.C. House: the Palmetto Comprehensive Health Care Act (H.3726).
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Single payer involves publicly funded, privately delivered health care. That means it’s paid for with everyone’s fair share in taxes and delivered by doctors who are not directly paid or employed by the government. Instead of hundreds of different insurance companies, intermediaries and payers, there would be a single, non-governmental health-care agency — patterned after the Medicare system for all patients 65 and older — that would negotiate the services and payments with doctors and hospitals.
Every patient would have the right to health care and to choose his or her doctor. Everybody is in; nobody is out. Patients would not have to worry about their insurance or jobs changing or how much their medical bills are going to be this year, since they would have the right to health care as long as they are tax-paying citizens. Single payer would be a win-win for patients and doctors.
As with any change, there would be pros and cons. As a patient and a provider with experience practicing in both a private and a single-payer system, I believe the benefits of a single-payer system clearly outweigh its drawbacks. Among the biggest benefits: The cost of health care will decrease significantly by decreasing the overhead (Medicare overhead is around 3 percent, whereas the average overhead for U.S. insurance companies is 15 percent), and the health status of our nation will improve (currently, our health-care outcomes lag behind many industrialized countries that have single-payer, universal health-care systems).
You can learn more about single-payer and universal health care at pnhpSC.org.
Emilio Perez-Jorge, M.D.