Chuck Pennacchio, Executive Director of Healthcare For All PA, spoke at the Gettysburg DFA meeting last evening about the crisis in healthcare and the solution: a single payer system providing health and medical care for everyone. A single payer system eliminates the massive overhead of the current system with its duplicative bureaucracies, multi-million dollar advertising budgets, huge CEO salaries, and inefficiencies. Present single payer systems such as Medicare operate on a 3-5% overhead cost while the hundreds of different health insurance companies have overhead expenses of 25-30%. Eliminating that difference frees enough money to provide healthcare for everyone without deductibles or copays and provide true universal, comprehensive coverage.
You would remain free to determine your own providers who would remain private businesses. It would drastically reduce medical care costs by providing wellness and pharmaceutical coverage in addition to full mental health coverage. Because a state trust would be ensured of running the system, collecting premiums from businesses and individuals which would be far less than the current broken system charges, no CEO would be paid $2 million/year as is now the case for many health insurance programs. Some are paid far more than that.
Every television, radio or internet ad you see and every billboard is money not being used to care for people. No person would be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and no one would be denied coverage because the company prefers to make money instead of care for the sick, injured and dying.
The myth that anyone can get health care simply by going to an emergency room has even been perpetuated by President Bush. If you are chronically ill you cannot get treatment at an ER until you are dying and in a crisis situation. Then the hospital will give you a bed until it's time to call the coroner. Many people must wait to get treatment until they're critically ill because they don't have coverage, they have inadequate coverage or cannot afford deductibles and co-payments. Therefore the costs for their care is much higher than need be. 18,000 Americans die each year for lack of health care coverage.
The United States spends double the amount on health care than European democracies with single payer systems. We do not have the best system of medical care in the world either, we actually rank 37th, behind several "third world" countries.
Pennacchio's plan would change all this in Pennsylvania. It would also be a magnet for jobs and economic growth. This is why many Republicans in Harrisburg support the proposal, HB 1660 and Senate Bill 300. Businesses would see their healthcare costs reined in and fixed. Their employees would be healthier and more productive and the predictable, affordable premiums would be a huge attraction to companies looking to locate plants and facilities.
Unfortunately many Democrats in Harrisburg are opposing this plan. At a recent Democratic Party meeting ill informed loyalists chanted the solution to this crisis is to elect more Democrats. Unfortunately the opposite is actually true. There is stronger and wider support among Republicans than Democrats. Find out where your individual state Representative and Senator stand on House Bill 1660 and Senate Bill 300 before you vote this year.
Disclosure: I volunteer for Healthcare For All PA and also served as Interim Campaign Coordinator for Chuck Pennacchio in 2005.