THE BLOG
01/19/2016 06:23 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2017

An Economist Breaks Down Single Payer Healthcare

Single payer healthcare proposals, similar to the one Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has created as part of his campaign platform has seen stark opposition lately from other Democrats. The opposing arguments for single payer healthcare are predicated on political expediency or tied to outside interests rather than factual information debunking the pros of a single payer healthcare system.

For instance, former DNC Chair Howard Dean recently criticized single payer healthcare on MSNBC, claiming it would "undo people's healthcare," resulting in chaos. In 2009, Howard Dean explained on Democracy Now the benefits of a single payer healthcare system. Dean's flip-flop can likely be attributed to his current position as a lobbyist for Denton Public Policy and Regulation, which regularly lobbies for Pharmaceutical companies and corporate healthcare.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has also vocalized her opposition to a single payer healthcare system as a means to attempt to highlight differences between herself and the candidate. At an event in Iowa she told her supporters Sanders' plan is a "risky deal." Her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, echoed Hillary Clinton's sentiments while campaigning in New Hampshire. It is of no surprise Hillary Clinton is opposed to a single payer healthcare system which would get rid of private health insurance companies and undermine the ability for pharmaceutical companies to price gouge as during 2013-2015, Hillary Clinton received $2.8 million in speaker fees from the health industry. In 2008, when Barrack Obama criticized Hillary Clinton's healthcare proposals, she held a press conference explaining why Democrats should never attack each other over universal healthcare.

Although the Democratic opponents to single payer healthcare proposals are correct to say it would dismantle Obamacare, their arguments are misleading, especially in regards to the implications of doing so. The affordable healthcare act fails to ensure around 30 million Americans, nearly ten percent of the population, and so many concessions were made from the initial universal healthcare package, what was passed is far from what the social safety net of healthcare for all is supposed to be. A single payer healthcare system would correct the shortcomings of Obamacare, and save Americans billions of dollars. Instead of Americans soliciting healthcare from private insurers, everyone would have access to healthcare as right of American citizenship, similar to citizens of every other advanced capitalist nations.

The first thing to keep in mind, and virtually everyone agrees about this, is that single payer healthcare would save a lot of money and resources that currently goes into administering the private health insurance system. Most of the time people view saving money and saving resources as a good thing, but if you own an insurance company or if you own a pharmaceutical company where you are charging monopolistic prices for things, saving money means lowering your income,' said Gerald Friedman, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Professor Friedman estimates a single payer healthcare system would save $600 billion in its first year alone. "I go out and people like me go around and say 'look at all the money we saved.' But, if you want to understand the opposition to single payer healthcare, you have to understand that the money saved is $600 billion of income going to people, a lot of it is going to very rich people with a lot of friends and that is why a lot of misinformation goes out; because people have a lot of interest and money riding on preventing single payer healthcare from becoming a reality.

Professor Friedman cited England as an example of a capitalist, industrialized nation with a single payer healthcare system, but notes that system was enacted shortly after World War II before large pharmaceutical companies and large private health insurers were around to oppose such a system from being created.

There are literally trillions of dollars of income flowing through the current healthcare system and there are people looking to preserve it. No serious person would say a single payer system would be more expensive.

added Professor Friedman, who estimates the costs of insuring the uninsured would be around $300 billion, so single payer healthcare would still save a lot of money, while simultaneously eliminating co-pays and deductibles.

There would still be private doctors, private clinics, and private pharmaceutical companies, but private health insurers would be eliminated in exchange for one run by the government, hence the term, single payer.

The health insurance you have now probably limits what doctors you can go to, what hospitals you can use, what prescription drugs you can take. There would be none of that under a single payer healthcare system," explained Professor Friedman. "People would have much more freedom to choose the type of doctors and medicine they want. The system we have now is essentially a private body which taxes you. You have to buy health insurance as required by law, That means you have to pay a private body. Right now, Americans pay on average $6,000 a year per person, that includes everybody, for health insurance. If you weed out the elderly and people on public programs it would be more like $10,000, for private health insurance. That's a tax imposed on us, If we had a single payer system we would be paying a lot less. Instead of paying a private health insurer, we would be paying public taxes to the state or federal government, and we would be paying a lot less because the system would be more efficient while providing better quality healthcare.