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Affordable health care for all

Now is the time to create a single-payer heath care system

Given that the Affordable Care Act is being dismantled, Americans should take advantage of this transition period to move to a health care plan that covers all Americans at lower cost and with greater efficiency.

Although the ACA was well-intentioned and covered an additional 20 million Americans, its fatal flaw was it left the bloated, wasteful corporate-private health insurance plans in place.

The private plans cannot deliver health, only profits for their CEO's and investors.

United Health Care CEO Stephen Hemsley made $66 million in compensation in 2014, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — not bad for him, but how about for the 30 million Americans with no health care coverage and the millions more who are underinsured?

Moving to a single payer health care system would save $500 billion in overhead. Overhead, or "transaction fees," accounts for a third of current health care costs because the mix of private and public health care funding is so inefficient and fragmented. Meanwhile, costs go up every year for a poorer product and skimpier coverage.

A single payer system would involve expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, as a public health system, based on the principle that health care is a human right, not something based on the ability to pay.

There are many benefits to a universal, single payer system, including lower overhead, lower drug prices and incentives for preventive car that promote health rather than profits.

A government funded system has an incentive to promote the health of its population, its future; a private company does not. Private health insurers have an incentive to deny care because the more they collect in premiums and the less they pay in claims, the more profit they make.

This perverse incentive disappears in a single payer system. Also, private insurers have an incentive to dump the sickest, most expensive patients and cherry-pick the healthiest, low-cost patients. Is this what we want?

How would this be paid for? A payroll tax on employers of about 7 percent, which is less than they are already paying, and a 2 percent individual income tax would be enough to fund a better, more comprehensive system of coverage.

As a pediatrician I am especially excited about this opportunity to move to a single payer system and the prospects it holds for improving the heath of our entire nation. A private health care system is literally one in which every man, woman and child must fend for themselves. We can do much better than that.

John F. Irwin

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