A Utopian view
Pryce Michener (Point of View, Oct. 7) paints a Utopian view of the single-payer solution to health care, without regard to its shortcomings. Current taxpayerfinanced medical programs make up $1.5 trillion of an annual $4 trillion budget, and cover 70 million people. These programs generally cover 80 percent of the cost to the patient, so we would have to increase that amount to $1.8 trillion to make the current programs “free.” To cover all Americans in a population of 325 million, the total cost of single-payer would be over $8 trillion annually, requiring a tripling of an already underfunded federal budget. The required tax burden would put most Americans in poverty.
The next problem is either to reduce the percentage that the program pays (like Medicare), or limit what the program covers to attempt to make it affordable. The British and Canadian health care both put restrictions on specialist treatment and elective surgery, with patients waiting months or years for knee replacement as one example. Limits on the cost of medications mean some health problems are restricted to medications less than ideal. Neither of these types of restrictions meets Michener’s idyllic view of single-payer.
A real solution would be to cut the government and the insurers out of the picture by allowing the medical community to offer subscriber contracts that cover all care. Eliminating the middle man would lower the cost of care and restore the doctor-patient relationship.
Charles P. (Pat) Kelley, Oklahoma City