Gerald Friedman is an economist, and when he crunches the numbers on health care, he comes up with what he believes is an inescapable conclusion: a single-payer system is the way to go.

Based on his analysis, he believes that extending coverage to all United States citizens under Medicare, the government-backed insurance plan for Americans 65 and over, would generate well over $500 billion in cost savings the first year and about $2 trillion over a decade.

“You cannot come up with an economic policy that would have such a large, immediate effect on the U.S. economy,” said Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts.

Friedman will be in Corvallis on Friday and will discuss his views in a pair of free, public talks (see box). His visit is part of a weeklong Oregon tour, sponsored by Health Care for All-Oregon, that also includes appearances in Portland, Pendleton, La Grande, Eugene, Bend and Ashland.

“It’s an economist’s confirmation of what we have been saying — that it’s possible to cover everybody and do it at less cost,” said Mike Huntington, a retired Corvallis physician who runs the speakers’ bureau for the statewide health care reform group.

Much of the savings, Friedman says, would come from eliminating unnecessary layers of administration and lowering prescription costs through bulk purchasing of drugs. At the same time, putting all Americans in a single risk pool would shift some of the cost burden off the sick and the poor and onto the healthy and wealthy, who can afford to pay more.

“Many American hospitals have more people doing billing than they have beds,” he said.

“It’s a win-win-win for everybody except the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies.”

Friedman, who has served as a consultant to single-payer health care campaigns in several states, estimates that Oregon could save $8.4 billion in health care costs if it implemented such a system next year. Even with a projected increase in utilization expenses of $2 billion, that’s still a net savings of more than $6 billion.

The new federal health insurance law that came online this year is making some headway, he said, but he thinks those gains will be short-lived.

“There will still be 20 million people left uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, and millions more will be left underinsured,” Friedman said. “And the Affordable Care Act does very little to control health care costs.”

Eventually, he believes, spiraling cost increases will spur Americans to demand that Congress take action and implement some sort of single-payer system.

“In five years it will be clear that the Affordable Care Act is not fulfilling its goals,” Friedman said. “Push will come to shove.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

(3) comments

nocapes

Yes, true, but "less cost" is not the American way. We need to charge people so much for health care that they lose their houses, their way of life, their life savings, everything must trickle up to the top or it isn't America!

Beaversrule

I'm not an economist, more of a political scientist. I'm thinking about Cover Oregon. I'm thinking about Obamacare. I'm thinking: How can anybody trust the state or federal government with total control of health care?

Of course, there are many folks out there than cling to notions of government as Messiah, it's purpose to save people from their sinful ways. So they endure with their lectures on how great Single Payer healthcare is. It isn't. Not for America.

But I try to respect other opinions and since I don't understand why people expect employers to pay for health care I go ahead and imagine how a Single Payer system might be feasible, one day.

My solution to make Single Payer a feasible prospect is to create elected positions to govern the health care system. How about every four years- in the odd years- we debate health care policy and directly elect a health care "czar" and regional representatives. It would be a whole separate elected government which could also take over other health functions of government like CDC, FDA, etc. (While we're setting this health government up, a public finance system might be appropriate for these proposed elected offices.) By directly electing the people in charge of health care, people would feel a lot more in control of a situation that often leaves them feeling helpless.

NewportBeaver

If you think Obamacare was the result liberals / democrats wanted, you're wrong. This is merely the transition program to get you all to submit to a single-payer system. It's all designed to be exactly as it is. Welcome to the exciting world of American Social Engineering: 101.

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