By NICHOLAS H. ANTON
Dr. Nicholas H. Anton practiced internal medicine in Santa Rosa for 34 years, retiring in 2009.
Occupy Wall Street emerged as a grass-roots campaign against excessive corporate wealth and political power. Having been bailed out by the U.S. government, large banks are making record profits and paying huge bonuses while lobbying for less regulation of the activities largely responsible for our country’s financial collapse.
Embedded in this corporate culture is the health care industry, composed of insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. Their lobbying efforts and extensive financial resources — spending $1.4 billion on the recent health care reform debate — resulted in a watered-down bill.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. It preserves the major contributor to high-cost health care — the private insurance industry — while leaving 23 million uninsured and failing to address the skyrocketing cost of the U.S. health care system.
Of every health care dollar spent in the private sector, 25-30 cents goes for administration, profit and marketing. Compare this to Medicare, which spends 3 cents. The average CEO salary of the 10 largest insurance companies is $11.7 million per year.
A single-payer system, patterned after Medicare and with additional benefits, would provide health care for everyone while creating a system allowing patients access to any physician or hospital of their choice. In addition, such a system would lower costs and improve the quality of health care. Gridlock at the national level currently makes such sweeping reform impossible. Senate Bill 810, sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno, would establish a single-payer system in California. This concept has been passed twice by the Legislature, only to be vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Canadian Medicare started in one province, Saskatchewan, on Jan. 1, 1947, before being adopted by all Canadian provinces in 1964.
SB 810 would cover inpatient and outpatient medical care, OB and pediatric care, mental health services, emergency services, adult day care, substance abuse treatment, prescription drug coverage, vision care, dental care, skilled nursing services, chiropractic care and durable medical equipment, all with no co-pays or deductibles. This publicly financed and privately delivered system would provide high-quality health care to all Californians regardless of income, employment or health status.
Too good to be true? Emphatically, no.
In 2005, the Lewin Group, (an independent health care consulting firm, determined that such health care reform would save California $343.6 billion over 10 years. In the first year alone, $20 billion in savings from reduced administrative costs and $5.2 billion using negotiated bulk purchases for pharmaceuticals and durable medical equipment would result in a net $8 billion savings … this even after insuring 6 million Californians currently without health insurance.
Imagine a health care system demonstrating real American freedom to choose your doctor and hospital while creating competition based on quality. Imagine a system where Californians care for one another and where health care would become a necessary public service, like police and fire protection. Individuals would be relieved of the prospect of unforeseen health care expenses; large and small businesses as well as state and local governments would no longer have to face rising health care costs of 6 percent to 9 percent annually; employment in the health care sector would grow dramatically to care for the newly insured; physicians and hospitals would be able to reduce much of the administrative overhead required now to deal with the more than 6,000 health plans offered in California.
For more information on SB 810, go to http://pnhpcalifornia.org.