By Dan Judge
As an an independent insurance broker in the field of health and employee benefits, I, along with a vast number of my insurance industry colleagues, truly understand and empathize with many of the opinions voiced lately regarding the confusion and frustration in our U.S. health care system. But that doesn’t mean we should throw it out for a single-payer, government-run system.
Single-payer, as proposed under the New York Health Act, would completely disrupt, if not dismantle, our health care system. Mandating that all New Yorkers would be forced to give up their current coverage and be lumped into one government-controlled system would not only be an administrative nightmare, it would also have a negative impact on access to care.
If we look to Canada (the closest single system we have to compare to) we see what life is really like under single-payer. The libertarian Fraser Institute of Canada publishes a “Waiting Your Turn” report every year, highlighting dramatic increases in wait times for specialists and procedures. Patients wait several months just to start cancer treatment. This has an increasing number of people choosing “medical tourism,” traveling to places like New York, rather than waiting in Canada for care.
Much of the savings proponents of the New York Health Act point to are dependent upon major cuts to hospitals and doctors. In Erie County, nine out of the 10 hospitals would see funding decline dramatically under single-payer. Your doctor may decide the lower pay and higher taxes aren’t worth practicing in New York anymore. This will also make it harder to recruit new doctors, leading to provider shortages.
And then there are the massive tax increases. Analysis conducted by the RAND Corp. last year estimated that taxes would need to increase by $139 billion in the first year alone under a single-payer system; including long-term care increases this amount by an additional $43 billion in taxes. The NYHA would create the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, ballooning to more than $250 billion a year when fully implemented.
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office recently determined that a national single-payer system "would significantly increase government spending and require substantial additional government resources." Just like the RAND Corp., they also noted the possibility of less access to care while facing an increased demand that could not be met.
The majority of New Yorkers – 95% – are currently covered by health insurance. (In Western New York, that number rises to 96.8%.) The state should be looking at ways to help cover the remaining 5% instead of ways to create more frustration and confusion under a single-payer health care system.
Dan Judge is president of the Greater Niagara Frontier Chapter of the New York Association of Health Underwriters.