“Fix It:” CEO says single-payer health system makes good business sense
Know & Go
WHAT: Documentary film, “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point” with panel discussion following the screening
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 27
WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City
MORE INFO: http://fixithealthcare.com
Crippled by the ever-increasing cost of providing private health insurance for his employees, one CEO took it upon himself to examine the issue using best business practices in search of a system that would provide the best possible affordable care.
Richard Master, founder and owner of MCS Industries — a world leader in the picture frame and decorative mirror business — conducted an in-depth analysis and cost comparison of available health insurance options, determined to come up with the “fix.”
The documentary, “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” follows Master’s trail of research and exploration to find an alternative to America’s unsustainable healthcare system. In collaboration with Health Care for All – California and the Campaign for Healthy California, “Fix It” will be screened at 7 p.m. April 27 at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City.
As part of a statewide screening, a panel discussion and Q&A session will follow the film. Panelists will include health policy advisor Cindy Young, registered nurse Lynn Ely, Summer Thymes owner Amy Cooke, CPA and finance manager of BriarPatch Co-op Andrea Echegaray and Charly Price of Move to Amend.
And what was Master’s conclusion as a result of extensive international research? A single-payer, “Medicare for all” system that would eliminate the wasteful, fragmented for-profit health care industry, which generally allocates 30 to 35 percent of every healthcare dollar to paperwork and overhead. In his analysis, Master asserts that in a single-payer system, the bureaucratic burden would be cut in half, resulting in an estimated $500 billion in net savings for the United States.
Private businesses in Japan, Canada and many European countries, which already have a single-payer system that operates at half or less of the per capita cost in the U.S., have an unquestionable competitive edge, he asserts. This is why Master is now reaching out to American business owners, most of whom are offering expensive, sub-standard health insurance coverage to their workers, or none at all. Despite recent reforms, Americans remain vulnerable to economic catastrophe, and often skip prescription medications or check-ups due to high costs. Of the 1.4 million Americans who file for medical bankruptcy annually, 75 percent have health insurance, said Master.
“At BriarPatch, we offer health care to almost all of our employees. This is rare in the grocery industry, where most non-management positions are scheduled specifically so that employees are ineligible for coverage,” said Echegaray, who will be a panelist. “We pay well over a million dollars each year in healthcare costs for our employees (including workers’ comp), which is over 12 percent of our overall operating expenses and equals 21 cents for every dollar an employee earns.
“Our premiums have grown 8 to 10 percent annually and we have no ability to influence these rates,” she continued. “We can’t move to other carriers (Blue Shield has a monopoly) because of the lack of contracted providers in our area. So, we are forced to either accept the increase (and pass the employee portion of the increase to our staff) or decrease coverage.”
A single-payer system would not only help businesses big and small, but school districts and unions alike, said panelist Young, who is a health policy advisor for J. Glynn & Company, a small healthcare consulting firm.
“I don’t think small business owners know there are real solutions — unfortunately there are lots of myths out there,” she said. “Under a single-payer system, if my employee gets sick, it gets paid for under one system, which includes dental, vision, medical and workers’ comp.”
The film suggests there is a myth that under a single-payer system, the government will make medical decisions. But in a publicly financed, universal health-care system, healthcare delivery is private, not government-owned. Medical decisions are left to patients and doctors, as is the case in countries like Canada, Germany, France and Spain, where financing is public — and delivery of care remains private. Cost containment measures are publicly managed. The total budget for healthcare is set through a public, democratic process, while clinical decisions remain a private matter between doctor and patient.
Additionally, a single-payer, “Medicare for all” system frees individuals from job-based insurance, as coverage is not tied to employment. With all Americans insured, there would be the opportunity to negotiate for lower drug prices, saving an estimated $150 billion a year, asserts Masters. Physicians and patients would have the right to determine their best course of medical care, not insurance companies.
“Small businesses are starting to see the writing on the wall — that our current system is not sustainable,” said Pilar Schiavo, coordinator for the Campaign for Healthy California. “We already have 50 years of experience running this system, it’s called Medicare, which is just for seniors. People are seeing that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has helped a lot of people, added Schiavo, but it has also created new barriers. Some companies would rather pay a penalty than provide healthcare — or simply keep their workers hours under 30 hours a week to avoid coverage.
“So often we preach to the choir — the socially liberal,” said Mindy Oberne, a Grass Valley healthcare activist. “But this film reaches a new audience of conservative business owners who care about being fiscally conservative, which a single payer system is. The idea is to grow the choir. Not until we join as one voice, and aren’t splintered by political ideology, can we accomplish our goal of universal health care.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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