Amendment In Colorado Seeks To Make State A Single-Payer Entity–Big Insurance And Hospitals Come Out Guns Blazing In Opposition
Remember single-payer insurance? It was a dream many fought for back when Obama was ramping up healthcare reform–and which, not incidentally, Obama promised on the campaign trail but conveniently forgot in the face of big healthcare opposition.
Well now the state of Colorado, famous for taking the lead on legalized recreational marijuana in the US, is blazing a new trail, so to speak, on insurance reform, with an amendment that would make them the first state to adopt a single-payer insurance system.
The proposed system would provide universal coverage and replace insurance premiums with higher taxes, making the state the sole negotiator with hospitals and drug companies. Proponents say that the system–which would raise $25 billion a year through a combination of employer payroll taxes, a three percent tax on employee gross pay, and a new tax on self-employed net income–would ultimately save $4.5 billion a year.
Just in terms of negotiating drug prices alone it’s hard to argue with this. The “Canada run” to get prescriptions filled is a way of life for people living in northern states, due the usurious prices Big Pharma charges in the US. It’s possible to pay 80 percent less in Canada for the exact same drug as you would pay in the US, an appalling situation when you consider that taxpayer dollars fund much of the research and development of drugs. We foot the bill, they reap the profits.
But the drug and medical industries aren’t going to give up their cash cows easily. Lobby groups representing major for-profit health care corporations in Colorado, including hospitals and insurance brokers, are already lining up against the proposed amendment. The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry–a trade group helmed by HCA HealthOne, a subsidiary of HCA, one of the biggest private hospital chains in the country–is raising money to defeat the amendment. The state’s largest association of health insurance companies is also mobilizing to fight the measure.
The US is the only wealthy nation that doesn’t have a publicly financed universal health care system. As a result, health care costs are far and away miles above every other industrialized nation. And all that money doesn’t even get results–unless you count the stock portfolios of the corporations CEOs: the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates of countries ranked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Expect much hue and cry about taxes, and government jackboots and all the silliness we saw around the time that Obamacare was coming online. But whereas that system basically siphoned off taxpayer money to funnel it up to the insurance companies and Big Pharma, a single-payer system is something that could actually help people in a big way.
For proof one need look no further than the US’s own single-payer Medicare system, whose elderly users consistently and overwhelmingly prefer over private insurers.
Here’s hoping the trailblazers in Colorado can continue to break new ground and point the way toward healthcare sanity in the country ranked 37th in the world in health care.