Pricing makes the case for single-payer care

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The Feb. 16 article “Hospital Charges Can Vary Widely” by Steve Twedt should be a highlight of the next great step in getting the country’s health care on par with the rest of our developed world brethren — namely, the single-payer system. Although I am a supporter of President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act in premise, I believe that the biggest problem with the ACA is not in its roll-out issues or any of the GOP’s favored boogeymen such as the alleged “death panels.” Rather, the problem is one of stopping too short.

Many people who have looked into signing up at healthcare.gov have similar stories — it’s going to cost them the same arm and leg that purchasing coverage the old way would have. I’m all for eliminating “pre-existing conditions” and for the options that has opened up for those most in need of coverage, but that doesn’t help those who still can’t afford $800 monthly for just-in-case insurance.

When the price of insurance coverage is still astronomical in addition to the price of the actual care being as inflated as it is for hospitals, insurers and patients alike, we have the same kettle of fish we have had for decades. This debate recently came up when someone shared an infographic about the price of a bag of saline solution and the difference between the cost to produce said item and the cost billed to the patient. According to that item, the production cost was $1.07 and the billed cost was $787. I put the question to friends in the United Kingdom: “What would Britain’s National Health Service pay for this bag of saline solution?” Their answer was, essentially, NHS purchases all medical items from distributors. Because they are the insurer and provider and do not pass a cost along to the patient or another party, they make sure to get a decent price for themselves.

Then again, I suppose we’ve got to consider the .01 percent getting rich on that extra $785.93 every time somebody’s dehydrated.

JESSICA S. PFAUTH
Penn Hills


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