2012-02-14 / Letters

Single-payer success

To the editor:

Martin Jones’ Feb. 2 letter to the editor, “Health care delusions,” about the single payer health insurance plans and the European debt crisis give some wrong impressions that need correction.

I’ll try to do so without too much in the way of footnotes and bibliography.

1. Single-payer plans have been in existence for, in some cases, more than a century. In Britain, it’s been almost exactly a century, starting with Lloyd George’s reforms in 1911.

They have worked reasonably well through normal times, depressions and wars. They are not a sudden experiment with disastrous results.

Nobody, but nobody in these countries is uninsured. And everyone gets the health care they need.

How many millions of Americans are without health insurance?

2. Single-payer plans are less expensive than the American system, in some cases about half as expensive. We spend about 16 percent of gross domestic product on health. The European countries spend, in some cases, about half that — and with better results on, for example, infant mortality.

3. Specific procedures — for instance, appendectomies — cost far less in those countries than in the U. S. In other words, single-payer systems are more cost-effective than the U.S. system.

One may oppose singlepayer systems because you want to keep government small, or taxes low, or public social welfare small, but overall expenditures cannot be your reason.

No one in these countries is advocating for the American system.

People who want to find out more might start with T. R. Reid’s very readable book, “The Healing of America; A Global Test for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care.”

Daniel Levine

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