County and municipal governments of the state - not just in Williamsport - are struggling with budgets. Property taxes are going up. Essential services like police, fire and education are being cut.
One of the biggest expenses for government agencies is providing medical insurance for their employees, and there is a solution right now before the state Legislature. Senate Bill 400/House Bill 1600, the Family and Business Healthcare Security Act, would guarantee Medicare-style single-payer health care for all state residents, delivered efficiently and much less expensively.
Instead of paying private insurance companies, which keep 15-30 percent of the money they take in so they can support their bureaucracies, skyscrapers, advertising, pay dividends to their stockholders and astronomical salaries to their executives, the state single payer system would be required to return 95 percent of the money it collected to beneficiaries and use no more than 5 percent for its own expenses.
Pennsylvania's plan would cover everyone in the state with no waiting periods or exclusions, no deductibles and no co-pays. It would cover doctors, hospitals, lab tests, medicines, physical therapy and psychotherapy, dental care, long-term care, chiropractic - even glasses and hearing aids. Single payer includes effective, transparent cost controls that don't restrict patients' access to care and pays providers fairly and reliably. The city would save more than $2 million every year.
The system would be governed by a board with representatives from consumers, business and professionals. It would be paid for by a modest surcharge on individual income taxes and payroll taxes. It would assure benefits for all and a fair way of paying for them. As with Medicare, professionals and institutions would retain their autonomy. This is not "socialized medicine."
Pennsylvania would have the least expensive, most efficient medical care in the nation. Not just government agencies - and taxpayers - would benefit. Businesses' net expenses for medical insurance would decrease substantially. Health insurance would cease to be a contentious issue between employees and management, because everyone (including management) would automatically have excellent coverage at reasonable cost. Medical care for work injuries would be taken care of by the state's one payer system, so employers would pay less for workers' compensation insurance,.
The U.S. has the world's most expensive medical system, but not the best. Federal health care reform, scheduled to go into effect over the next few years, preserves the private insurance system, doesn't provide full coverage for all, and will cost the nation even more than we are paying now for health care.
Vermont's legislature has already passed a one-payer plan and similar plans are being proposed in other states. With medical insurance costs under control, Pennsylvania would have the most attractive business climate in the U.S. and property taxes could be lowered. Best of all, everyone in our state would have access to quality health care at reasonable cost.
Arno Vosk, M.D.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom