It’s hard to foot the bill for revolution if you don’t know what it will cost.
For years now, advocates of a single-payer health care system have been pushing for a revolution in health care. Among their claims: A single-payer system, in which the government pays for all health care costs rather than private insurers, is the cheapest way to provide quality care for all.
A new bill in the Oregon Legislature could help to test that notion: House Bill 3260 would direct the Oregon Health Authority to conduct a feasibility study on at least four options for financing health care delivery in the state, including a publicly financed single-payer system.
Other options that would be studied under the bill include:
-- One that allows a consumer to choose between a publicly funded plan and private insurance coverage and allows “fair and robust” competition between public plans and private insurance.
-- The current health care financing system in Oregon.
-- Any other options deemed worthy of consideration by the researchers doing the study.
There’s no chance that a single-payer system could be implemented until 2017, when states can seek waivers under the federal Affordable Care Act.
But Portland Rep. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, has long been an advocate for a single-payer system. He and other health care reformers are following a playbook that was pioneered in Vermont: A similar study there was a key step toward that state adopting a modified single-payer plan.
The hope in Oregon is that a tough-minded and fair feasibility study will help lay the groundwork for a serious discussion here about a single-payer system.
Everyone knows something has to change in our stressed health care system. A single-payer system may be the best option.
But it will be easier to tell with a solid study in hand analyzing how its costs stack up against other options. Advocates are betting on a single-payer option: The study mandated by HB 3260 would help us see if that’s a bet that will pay off.