Local meeting discusses single payer healthcare

FAIRMONT — Area residents were invited to a discussion about single-payer healthcare on Wednesday evening at the Martin County Library. The event coordinator was Peter Engstrom, and those in attendance were able to hear from Glen Peterson, PhD, a professor Emeritus of Rehabilitation Counseling at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Peterson has been on the Board of Directors of the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) for four years.

“Healthcare should not be a commodity. It’s a basic human right,” said Peterson. Peterson and his group are advocates for Single-Payer Healthcare. The basic purpose of Single-Payer Healthcare is to provide everyone with quality healthcare. The premise of the idea is that everyone in Minnesota and in the country would be covered for all medical services including doctor and hospital visits, preventive and long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.

The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized country that lacks universal healthcare.

“We’re spending twice as much to get nothing that is particularly better,” Peterson said of the cost of most existing healthcare plans.

Peterson provided several arguments as to why the cost of healthcare is so high, including the huge clerical and administrative support staff that providers need to do the billing and other paperwork. Peterson reported that it’s estimated that approximately 31 percent of every healthcare dollar goes to administrative assistants.

Peterson reported that the cost of health insurance and the huge profits they generate are more than excessive. CEO’s of large insurance companies such as UnitedHealth Group, Cigna and many others make anywhere from 20-60 million a year, sometimes more.

“They say it’s too expensive to provide everyone with healthcare. I beg to differ,” remarked Peterson.

Peterson went on to state that healthcare costs contribute to more bankruptcies in the U.S. than any other cause.

“Too many people put off treatment and being seen by healthcare providers because of the out-of-pocket costs. In a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans said they believe it’s the responsibility of the government to make sure that everyone has healthcare,” Peterson said.

Single-Payer Healthcare would have one founding source, the government. Everyone would have the same coverage.

“Single-Payer believes in giving the choice of which doctor you’d like and what clinic you’d like to go to. You can still select the provider that best fits your needs. It will remain private,” Peterson said.

Another advantage to Single-Payer is that health coverage would no longer be related to what job you have. All citizens would be covered and there would be a unified risk pool. You would pay based on your ability to pay.

“Single-Payer would be funded through taxes, but in the end you’ll be saving money on reduced premiums/deductibles/co-pays. 95 percent of families would save,” Peterson reported.

Throughout his career, Peterson was always working with people with disabilities who required ongoing treatment.

“I became aware of the deficits, challenges and barriers that people face in accessing healthcare. Not just people with disabilities, but all people. This is a broadband problem,” Peterson admitted.

While there are some benefits to existing healthcare plans, there are still millions of Americans who are uninsured.

“Is equal healthcare for everyone realistic? I don’t know,” Peterson admitted, “but we’re the only major country in the world that doesn’t offer it.”

Those in attendance were able to ask questions of Peterson, as well as voice their disagreement. One member of the public stated that some of Peterson’s arguments in favor of the single-payer system were designed to make private insurance companies look bad. Others who are self-employed stated that paying their deductibles work fine for them.

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