Lance Armstrong’s Doctor Calls for Single-Payer System

By Deanna Pogorelc for MedCity News

The latest outcry for a single-payer healthcare system comes from a duo of prominent cancer doctors who call on their fellow oncologists to support what they call “an improved Medicare for all” resembling Canada’s healthcare system.

In an article scheduled to be published today in the Journal of Oncology Practice, Drs. Ray Drasga and Lawrence Einhorn remark that, as cancer doctors, they’re challenged by trying to advise the best treatments that a patient can afford. Because underinsurance is becoming the “new normal,” they say, cancer treatment may need to be compromised. And because every insurance plan is different, it’s hard for providers to know whether certain treatments will be covered.

Einhorn is a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the doctor who led treatment of Lance Armstrong. Drasga spearheaded efforts to start a free clinic in Crown Point, Ind.

They proposition that a single-payer system would remove some of the financial barriers to cancer care, make reimbursement simpler and cut down on the burdensome administrative overhead of private insurance companies.

They lay out their case:

“(The single-payer system) would provide universal, comprehensive coverage with free choice of providers. All medical care would be covered, including provider visits, hospital care, prescription drugs and rehabilitation. Copayments, deductibles, insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would be eliminated.”

A public agency would manage a single insurance plan for each region of the country that would be financed by payroll and income taxes.

“The public agency would manage the plan and the health care budget in a transparent way. The allocation of available health resources (ie, rationing) would be guided by medical considerations, not on the basis of meeting corporate requirements for a return on investment or on the basis of a patient’s ability to pay.”

Doesn’t that all sound too good to be true? “We think not,” they write. “Because a single-payer system is a sensible and realistic solution, we believe its achievement is possible with sufficient understanding among the public and their elected representatives.”

It would be a challenging transition, they admit. But state-by-state implementation would lessen the administrative burdens, and ultimately such a plan could save up to $380 billion annually, they write.