The Aug. 3 editorial “Frayed Safety Net” does raise some important issues about the availability of medical services in Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette and Westmoreland counties since 2000. It cites the “decades-long decline” in the population of the four counties as the reason for 11 out of the 39 hospitals being closed since 2000.
While it is true that the population in these four counties has decreased 13.9 percent from 1980 to 2012 (the most recent year estimates are available from the Census Bureau) it has decreased only 4.2 percent since 2000. The closure of hospitals since 2000 has resulted in a 28.2 percent decrease (11 divided by 39) in the number of hospitals, which is disproportionate to population decline even if you consider the change since 1980. It seems that cost is a much bigger factor driving hospital closures than population.
The editorial was right to commend Cleveland Clinic for building clinics in places where it had to close hospitals. The clinic is a true nonprofit organization dedicated to serving its populations. UPMC and Highmark, while technically also nonprofits, often behave as Fortune 500 companies as has been shown in the current battles in which these organizations are involved. A for-profit health care system cannot adequately serve its populations whether it be under the Affordable Care Act or not.
A single-payer system is far more efficient in providing care and controlling costs.
The writer is the statistician for Healthcare for All PA (Healthcare4AllPA.org).