Proposals for Single-Payer Health Insurance System Would Save State Billions on Health Costs, Study Finds
The state Health and Human Services Agency will unveil three proposals today to transform the state's health care financing system to a single-payer model, which would save the state billions of dollars, according to a study of the plans. Conducted on behalf of CHHS, the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Lewin Group found that a single-payer system would cut the state's health spending by as much as $7.6 billion while also stabilizing the health care system, reducing paperwork and protecting the doctor-patient relationship, according to a release by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP release, 4/10). The proposals are based on a two-year study by the state Health Care Options Project, which was created by a 1999 law (SB 480) signed by Gov. Gray Davis (D). The proposals, in general, would create a "publicly financed, privately delivered" single-payer system that would offer insurance packages for all state residents based on the benefits now available through the current employer-sponsored system, according to Spyros Andreopoulos, director emeritus of the Office of Public Affairs at Stanford University Medical Center. The system would be financed through new employer payroll taxes and funding from Medi-Cal and Medicare (Andreopoulos, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/11). The proposals, which also include six options for universal coverage that are not based on a single-payer system, are available online.
Shifting toward a single-payer health care system would mark a "major shift" in state health policy and, if successful, could "trigger a national health-care reform trend," Spyros Andreopoulos, the Stanford researcher, writes in an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. Proponents of such a system, Andreopoulos writes, believe that it could cover all of California's 6.8 million uninsured residents and "provide more care for the money through reductions in administrative costs and other efficiencies." He adds that although earlier proposals for single-payer systems, including the Clinton administration's 1994 proposal, have been criticized as "socialized medicine," physicians have "warmed considerably" to the idea, as they "now realize the alternative to managed care is much worse." And with Congress apparently not "focused on a clear strategy to get things done," more people are looking to their state governments for help and are promoting single-payer systems. Still, Andreopoulos writes that such a significant change in California's health care system "must have broad political support" and would take at least two years to implement (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.