Emerge Tampa – Future of Healthcare discussion - by Seán Kinane

06/29/06


Tuesday night at the Moffit Cancer Center on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus there was a discussion presenting two opposing visions of the future of healthcare in America. It was organized by Emerge Tampa, part of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. WMNF’s Seán Kinane reports.

Dr. Greg Silver is the Tampa Bay Chapter President of Physicians for a National Health Program and he practices medicine in Clearwater. He said that having a universal single-payer health care system in this country would save taxpayers money. Dr. Silver explained that this system would be like Medicare for everyone and he dispelled the myths that it would be either “socialized medicine� where the government provides health care or what he called “Hillary Care� which would still involve private insurance companies.

“The best study was done in California. They showed if CA went to a single-payer system, they would save over $10 billion per year and that would cover all illegal aliens included in their population. And it would be privately delivered. Medicare right now is privately delivered. I accept and see Medicare patients, and I bill Medicare: they pay me. And that system works much better and with much less hassle than I get from any private insurer. That’s what we’re talking about: that hospitals would be private, doctors would be private. You would have your choice of any of those things. And it would be comprehensive.

In addition to being less expensive, a single-payer universal healthcare system would also improve health care for everyone and reduce bureaucracy, as Dr. Silver explained:

“That’s what everybody also says is ‘you couldn’t afford to give everybody care, my god, you would bankrupt the country.’ That’s absolute nonsense. We already pay more per person, we pay more in public spending in government spending with Medicare, Medicaid; every public employee, you’re paying for their healthcare. And we already spend more in that public budget than all these other countries. And we score consistently lower on just about every health measure there is. We think of government systems as having too much regulation, too much inefficiency. There’s nothing more onerous than dealing with an HMO. Medicare, when I deal with them, is a walk in the park.�

The other speaker was Mike Tanner who is Director of Health and Welfare Studies with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington. He advocated for a privatized health care system including health savings accounts. Tanner feels that healthcare costs are driven up by over-consumption but that this would be reversed by market forces if patients, rather than insurance companies, paid for their own healthcare expenses.

“The problem is in this country, remember you only pay about 15 cents on the dollar, so you’re only having this very small portion of the cost that you’re paying. The result is that the value of almost anything exceeds that and people tend to over-consume healthcare. That drives up the cost for everyone else. And for people who don’t have health insurance, it drives the cost out and makes it unaffordable for them.�

Tanner did not address how poor people would receive health care, but he agreed with Dr. Silver that getting rid of health insurance companies, and the increased costs associated with them, is desirable. They differed in that Tanner felt that patients rather than the government should pay for healthcare bills.

“Physicians, the hospitals, don’t care so much about what you think, because you’re not paying them. They’re responsible to some insurance company, some bureaucrat someplace in a managed care program who is telling them what they can and can’t do. Or under Medicare and Medicaid to the government who is telling them what they can and can’t do. That’s who calls the tune. If we really want to change health care in this country we need to change who’s in charge. That means putting the consumer back in charge of health care. There are many ways we can do this. Health savings accounts is one. Changing the tax code so that you get a universal tax credit for health care whether you pay for it out of pocket or whether you pay for it through insurance.�

Those in attendance were given a ballot before and after hearing the speakers and on it they were asked their political viewpoint and whether the healthcare system should be privatized or nationalized.

Of the fifty people voting, twenty percent identified themselves as moderate, and those who identified themselves as liberal and conservative each made up 40 percent. A total of 12 people switched their votes after hearing the points of view from Dr. Greg Silver and from Mike Tanner; six of them switched to favoring a nationalized system, six to a privatized system. Most of those who identified themselves as moderates said they favored a nationalized health care system.

WMNF spoke with two attendees who were in the minority, favoring a privatized healthcare system.

ACTUALITIES: Scott, Seth (51 sec)

You can learn more about Emerge Tampa at their website, emergetampa.com. For more information about Physicians for a National Health Program, visit P-N-H-P dot org, and for the CATO Institute visit C-A-T-O dot org.

For WMNF news, I’m Seán Kinane

FMI

Emerge
http://www.emergetampa.com/

Physicians for a National Health Program
http://pnhp.org/

CATO
http://www.cato.org/

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
http://tampachamber.com/

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