How could getting rid of for-profit medical insurance save the country money?

Congress has so far been unsuccessful in attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There’s a lot of debate about how to best contain spiraling health care costs and some Americans say it’s time for a national health care plan. The idea isn’t new but understanding how it would work and what it would cost may be difficult to grasp, but Dr. Carol Paris, the President of Physicians for a National Health Program says getting rid of the insurance industry and pharmaceutical lobby would save a lot of money.

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PARIS: I don’t think, in this country, we’re gonna be able to solve our health care crisis by regulating the for-profit insurance industry. It simply has to go. And that’s when I became involved with Physicians For National Health program.

TOWNSEND: Critics of this idea — and as you said it’s been around for quite some time, the single payer concept — critics say it would be enormously expensive, that we would not be able to afford it as a nation. What do you say to those criticisms?

PARIS: Our health care expenditures currently are 17.7 percent of GDP, and the estimate is that by 2025, if we don’t do something, it’s going to be 19.9 — just shy of 20 percent of GDP. So we have to do something and in fact, if we do nothing, over the next ten years, one estimate is we’ll spend $49 trillion over ten years on health care. And if we have a national health program, we’d spend $32 trillion. The numbers are big, but in fact, passing a national health program would save money. And it would allow us then to begin to look more strategically at other aspects of the delivery side of health care and make modifications that would then really begin to save money.

TOWNSEND: What are your thoughts about the current system in place, the Affordable Care Act?

PARIS: The Affordable Care Act has many flaws, but it did accomplish some things that the American people like a whole lot. But make everyone be able to get insurance, in other words eliminating pre-existing conditions especially, is to make sure that even healthy people and young people buy insurance, and that’s where the very unpopular aspect came into play — the mandate. I completely understand the frustration of both individuals and small businesses of being mandated to purchase a product that they don’t have any choice or have limited choice about, and in fact is a really substandard product where 30 percent of the premium costs are going into administrative waste and profit. And that’s the money that a National Health Program would redirect by eliminating the health insurance industry putting everybody in a single risk pool, we would save $500 billion a year, and then add to that have the ability to negotiate drug prices, and our estimates are we’d save another $106 billion dollars a year. So we’re talking about over half a trillion dollars a year in savings.

Dr. Carol Paris, the President of Physicians for a National Health Program, will be speaking in Fairbanks this week and also in Juneau and Anchorage next week:

Aug 29: UAA College of Arts room 150 from 7pm-9pm.

August 31: KTOO studios at 5pm for a panel on healthcare being organized by KTOO.
August 31: University of Alaska Southeast Egan Lecture Hall at 7pm for a public presentation on single payer.
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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori