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Health care: Time for a change?

"For at least one high-ranking health official, the time has come for some major changes in Washington's health care system.Roger Case, health officer for Island County, recently sent an appeal to state lawmakers asking them to seriously consider self-insured health plans based on population groups rather than relying on for-profit health insurance programs.Case bases his comments on mounting problems within the current health care system which he says results in the public paying too much, the health care providers making too little and the insurance companies pocketing the difference. To underscore his points, Case cited an article published in the Journals of the American Medical Association, which contrasted the more than 40 million uninsured U.S. citizens against the high incomes of insurance company executives and corporate shareholders.There is no rationale to continuing for-profit health insurance programs, Case said in his letter to Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, Rep. Dave Anderson, D-Clinton, and Rep. Kelly Barlean, R-Langley. It is next to impossible to purchase individual health insurance in this state, and premiums continue to climb for businesses. It's time to change.Case proposes a regional or even statewide single-payer program. Such plans could cover every citizen's health care needs through a central source, such as the government. It would be funded through taxes, and medical care would be paid for on a fee-for-service basis according to an established fee schedule.Even Case admits that not everyone supports his view. Certainly there are those who could see it as a form of socialized medicine. In true socialized medicine, however, the government would also own and operate the hospitals and clinics. Under single payer, the medical industry would still be managed locally.The insurance companies are also likely to balk at any government program that could go into competition with private firms. The companies have long insisted that without their intervening control, health care costs could grow without limit as doctors and hospitals direct their patients to more and more-expensive tests, drugs and treatments.Many health professionals, including Case, say that without some sort of proactive measures the current health care system will ultimately break down completely and that some care facilities, such as Whidbey General Hospital, could be put in serious financial trouble.This is purely a personal opinion based on experience and close observation of the evolving medical care crisis, which will undoubtedly get much worse before public opinion swells to the point of forcing the issue, Case said. "

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