Other View: Beware of the Pitfalls of Single-Payer Plans

Other View: Beware of the Pitfalls of Single-Payer Plans

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Bernie Sanders has repeatedly touted his “Medicare for All” plan as better than what we have now. He says that, under his proposal, no American would be denied access to a doctor.

But Sen. Sanders won’t say if the plan will let you “keep” your doctor if you “like” your doctor — sound familiar? In fact, his approach would make it illegal for Americans to go outside the government-run system to pay for their own health care needs.

In addition, the single-payer systems he admires — such as those in Canada and Great Britain — often prevent people from getting the medications and care they need when they need it. In Canada, for example, residents routinely purchase private health care plans to help offset the costs of things such as prescription drugs. In Great Britain, the number of people waiting for routine care is fast approaching crisis levels.

As the Daily Mail reports, new data shows the waiting list with Great Britain’s National Health Service has reached a record high for the third month in a row, with nearly 4.4 million waiting for routine operations. That number was up by a quarter of a million people between February and May alone. One year ago, there were 4.09 million people on the waiting list. Two years earlier, the figure was 3.81 million.

Other data from NHS shows that more than 1,000 people have been waiting for more than a year for their treatment, and the number of accident and emergency patients stuck on beds in hallways while waiting for inpatient rooms has increased by 70% in just a year. Research from the BBC shows nearly three out of four NHS hospitals failed to reach a government target of treating 85% of cancer patients within 62 days of being referred by a general practitioner.

As the Daily Mail reported, the slow responses and longer wait times have been blamed, in part, on physicians and medical staff turning down extra shifts because they’re afraid of being clobbered with tax bills of up to 90% on their pensions if they make more than the equivalent of about $137,000 a year.

Similar staffing problems already exist in the United States and would only get worse under socialized medicine. As the Washington Examiner aptly points out, Medicare for All will rely upon reimbursement rates that are 40% lower than rates from private insurance companies. That won’t attract doctors to join or remain in the medical field.

Before Sen. Sanders or any of the other Democratic candidates touting “free” health care convinces you that single-payer is the way to go, do your homework. Until someone comes up with a way to fund universal health care without decimating the health care industry, we remain skeptical at best.

A version of this editorial first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.

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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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