Citizens Action Network sparks single-payer health care discussion

by Rick Miller, Olean Times Herald

Rick Miller/Olean Times Herald OLEAN — The Citizens Action Network hosted a lively discussion Thursday on proposals for a singlepayer health care system, or Medicare for everyone, for New York state.

More than 50 people attended the group’s monthly meeting on health care at the African American Center, 1801 W. State St.

After watching a documentary film on the single-payer system, a three-member panel discussed how it would impact patients, doctors and hospitals.

One doctor in the film said the $3 trillion currently spent on U.S. health care each year could be reduced to $2.7 trillion under a single-payer system — without either copays or high deductibles.

The panel included Upper Allegheny Health System President and CEO Timothy Finan, Olean Medical Group CEO Daniel Strauch and Athena Godet-Calogeras, chairman of the Health Care Access Coalition. Chris Stanley of Citizens Action Network, served as moderator.

Godet-Calogeras said the 12-year-old coalition advocates affordable, quality health care. She was circulating a petition at the meeting “for those of you who think prescription drugs are too expensive.”

Finan has worked in hospital administration for the past 29 years. For 10 years before that, he said he worked in the health insurance field.

“You figure how not to pay it out. It’s somewhat despicable,” he said, adding only 60 percent of premiums go toward patient costs.

“I’ve always been very supportive of single-payer,” Finan said. “The biggest obstacle is politics. A lot of Republicans right now don’t think all Americans need health insurance.”

Strauch, who said he was speaking for himself, asked whether Americans were willing to “wait in line” for medical service, citing models in Canada and Great Britain. He said something to consider was “how much would we want a government entity to make (medical) decisions?”

A single-payer health-care system could leave rural areas with an even greater physician shortage than exists now, Strauch said.

“My biggest concern,” he said, is whether the country has the political will to enact a single-payer system. “It is the fairest way to provide health care,” he said.

Godlet-Calogeras, who said she considers herself an activist in the access to health care for everyone, said it was “a long-term struggle.” She said more groups that would be affected need to be mobilized. She called for educating people and working for “Medicare for everyone.”

Stanley said his research showed under a single-payer system like Medicare, 90 percent of people would pay the same or less for health care without copays and high deductibles.

Finan said a single-payer system would have to include “adequate levels of reimbursement” in order for hospitals to maintain quality care and invest in technology.

Strauch said one of the biggest things that would accompany a single-payer system would be “piece of mind.” Under the current health-care system, many families are still driven into bankruptcy, he pointed out.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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