Monday, August 5, 2013

Big Sky Socialism

Montana's gone all socialist, and Montanans love it. In health care, anyway. For state employees. Free clinics, saving the state millions. Woulda thunk it, except anyone who thinks? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if we survive as a country, a major factor will have been going to a form of single payer health care. There's simply no other system that makes economic sense. You want extra super coverage for rich folks to pay for? Fine. But single payer as the fundamental basis must happen eventually; and people have to stop rejecting it out of hand, based only on a word.

A year ago, Montana opened the nation's first clinic for free primary healthcare services to its state government employees. The Helena, Mont., clinic was pitched as a way to improve overall employee health, but the idea has faced its fair share of political opposition. 
A year later, the state says the clinic is already saving money.
Pamela Weitz, a 61-year-old state library technician, was skeptical about the place at first. "I thought it was just the goofiest idea, but you know, it's really good," she says. In the last year, she's been there for checkups, blood tests and flu shots. She doesn't have to go; she still has her normal health insurance provided by the state. But at the clinic, she has no co-pays, no deductibles. It's free...
...The state contracts with a private company to run the facility and pays for everything — wages of the staff, total costs of all the visits. Those are all new expenses, and they all come from the budget for state employee healthcare.
Even so, division manager Russ Hill says it's actually costing the state $1,500,000 less for healthcare than before the clinic opened.
"Because there's no markup, our cost per visit is lower than in a private fee-for-service environment," Hill says...
...Bottom line: a patient's visit to the employee health clinic costs the state about half what it would cost if that patient went to a private doctor. And because it's free to patients, hundreds of people have come in who had not seen a doctor for at least two years. 
Hill says the facility is catching a lot, including 600 people who have diabetes, 1,300 people with high cholesterol, 1,600 people with high blood pressure and 2,600 patients diagnosed as obese. Treating these conditions early could avoid heart attacks, amputations, or other expensive hospital visits down the line, saving the state more money...
It's impossible, nowadays, to get most people to think beyond their prejudices. The article quotes a Republican legislator who was against the idea; but now he uses the clinic, and likes it. If we could just lay aside our prescribed and scripted reactions to everything, and think only about what works, we might get somewhere. But outside of Montana, hardly a liberal bastion, Republicans have only one thing in mind regarding healthcare: kill the Affordable Care Act before people figure out it's a good deal. And let the bodies fall where they may.

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