Here's To Your Health: Single Payer – 'a sane, accessible, and affordable health care system'

By Dr. Wayne Strouse
Dr. Wayne Strouse

After writing column after column regarding COVID-19, it is nice to be able to address other issues. At least for now, Covid seems to be receding. I do strongly recommend getting vaccinated. The vaccination story associated with Covid is nothing less than miraculous (a word I usually do not like to use in medicine). The speed that vaccines were developed, their incredible safety, and their amazing efficacy (even better in the real world than predicted in clinical trials) have helped us turn the corner. We are not completely out of the woods (people are still getting hospitalized and dying), but we are heading out of the woods rather quickly. I am now finished with superlatives for this column.

I'd like to dedicate the rest of this column to another issue that is near and dear to my heart — creating a sane, accessible, and affordable health care system. In this case, there is a specific bill in the State Senate and Assembly — the New York Health Act (NYHA).

Having experienced our current system, but also having worked in and received care in other healthcare systems (the US Navy, a socialized system, and New Zealand, a single payer system), I much prefer the single payer system.

You may have heard advertisements from a group called “Realities of Single Payer (RSP)”. Whenever there are changes proposed (even changes for the better), there are those who don't want to see change. RSP is a group which has a number of insurance agencies and underwriters, some unions, and Chambers of Commerce. Some organizations, like insurance companies, don't want change because they will no longer be needed. I call that a cost savings.

Basically, the NYHA makes New York State the payer of health insurance. Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance all are folded into this one healthcare system. We are all in it together. The State Senator and the sanitation worker, the Assemblyman and the auto mechanic — all have the same health insurance. If there's a problem that needs to be fixed, the legislator will be motivated to fix it. We are all in the same boat. If that boat is leaking, we all want to see it fixed.

You may hear that you won't have any choice like you do now. In a way this is true. In another way, this is deceiving. When I talk to my patients about choice, they all say the same thing — they want to be able to choose their doctor, their specialist, what hospital they go to. They really don't give a hoot about which insurance company is footing the bill.

Insurance companies limit choice. Is your doctor in network, or out of network? The NYHA gives you complete choice where it is most important — which doctor you are allowed to see.

You may hear that your taxes will increase. That is also true, but what you really need to know is — what will your out-of-pocket costs be? If you pay less in taxes, but more in deductibles and copays — are you really saving money? The NYHA eliminates deductibles and copays. Also, taxes are progressive — meaning if you make more money, you pay more taxes. Isn't that a much fairer way to pay for health insurance? Rich people pay more for insurance, and people who make less, pay less. In our current system, rich or poor, you are charged the same. Ultimately, by using taxes to pay for healthcare, and eliminating copays and deductibles, there is a good chance you will pay less for health insurance — possibly much less.

The other benefit is that EVERYONE is covered. And you are covered whether you are rich or poor, young or old, employed or unemployed. No staying in a job you hate because it gives you health insurance. No more bankruptcies because you became ill — and suddenly realize you can't afford to pay your high deductible. No more GoFundMe pages or fund raisers to pay for healthcare bills. No more getting laid off AND losing your health insurance. And since there is only one set of rules, there are no surprises! You know what to expect, and so does your doctor.

Single Payer health care means we are all insured, we each pay our fair share, we see whatever doctor we want, and everyone receives care under the same rules.

Finally, this is not a new idea! In fact, every other developed nation except the US is already doing this! They pay much less for health care, and show evidence of better health than we do. Look no further than across the Canadian border. They love their healthcare system (also called Medicare) — as do their doctors (it was that way in New Zealand as well).Sounds like something we can live with, eh?

Here's to your health!

Dr. Wayne Strouse is a family physician practicing in Penn Yan.