Friday, August 8, 2014

Single-payer health care would better control costs (Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I have a letter to the editor published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in response to an editorial there on the closing of hospitals since 2000.  The image below is from the paper and is a $100 bill being used as a tongue depressor.

The Frayed Safety Net editorial does raise some important issues in the availability of medical services in Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, and Westmoreland counties since 2000. It cites the ‘decade’s long decline’ in the population of the four counties as the reason for 11 out of the 39 hospitals being closed since 2000. While it is true that the population in these four counties has decreased 13.9% since 1980 to 2012 (the most recent year estimates are available from the Census Bureau) it has only decreased 4.2% since the year 2000. The closure of hospitals since 2000 has resulted in a 28.2% decrease (11 divided by 39) in the number of hospitals which is disproportionate to population decline even if you consider the change since 1980. It seems that cost is a much bigger factor driving hospital closures than population. 

The editorial was right to commend The Cleveland Clinic for building clinics in places where they had to close hospitals. The Clinic is a true non profit organization dedicated to serving their populations. UPMC and Highmark, while technically also non profits, often behave as Fortune 500 companies as has been shown in the current battles these organizations are involved. A for profit healthcare system cannot adequately serve their populations whether it be under the Affordable Care Act or not. A single payer system is far more efficient in providing care and controlling costs.

Paul Ricci
Stanton Heights
Healthcare For All PA 

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