California May Be Best Option to Implement Single-Payer System, Advocates Say
Amid increasing health insurance premiums, "dwindling benefits" and a growing number of uninsured residents, advocates of a single-payer health system say that California "stands the best chance of making it happen," "Marketplace" reports. Dr. James Kahn, an epidemiologist and health services researcher at the University of California-San Francisco's Institute for Health Policy Studies, is developing a model of California's health system to determine the feasibility of implementing a universal health system. Kahn said that California residents' frustration over having to switch health plans or physicians provides extra support to implementing such a system ("Marketplace," MPR, 5/2). Recently, for example, California Public Employees' Retirement System, the second-largest purchaser of health insurance after the federal government, accepted an increase of 25.1% in premiums for health plans contracting with the system. CalPERS also decided to drop contracts with Health Net Inc. and PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., which means up to 350,000 CalPERS members will have to switch health plans, and about 10% will need to find a new doctor (California Healthline, 4/18). American Association of Health Plans Vice President of Communications Susan Pisano said she opposes implementing a single-payer system because it "would lead to the creation of a large federal bureaucracy that would be less responsive and actually raise issues of cost, access and quality more than it would solve them." Dr. Lawrence Baker, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Research at Stanford University, added, "The politics and the maneuverings that would have to accompany changing the health care system to a single-payer system are enormous and ... probably very difficult to overcome." MPR reports that "broad political backing" and "extensive public education and support" would be necessary to "overhaul" California's current system ("Marketplace," MPR, 5/2).