Reprinted from dailykos.com
Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has pledged his support for single-payer health care in the past, but his recent efforts to bring zero-cost sharing primary and preventive care to Montana government employees and retirees may be doing something that most progressives would only dream could happen in America: bringing NHS-style, socialized medicine to Montana.
This is a big deal and -- while currently limited to state employees and retirees -- could be laying the groundwork for America's most socially-just health care system. NPR has the details:
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.
That's the case for the Helena area's 11,000 state workers and their dependents. With an appointment, patients wait just a couple minutes to see a doctor. Visitation is more than 75 percent higher than initial estimates.
Yup, nobody is forced to visit this publicly-financed clinic run by a private operator. If they wish, they can take their big-profit, private health insurance and head to any doctor they want, but folks are recognizing that this, err... public option, provides better care. And, when patients do make this choice, both the state and patients save money.
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.
Physicians are paid by the hour, not by the number of procedures they prescribe like many in the private sector. The state is able to buy supplies at lower prices.
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.
Take a second and let the words above sink in real deep. There you have exactly why the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Costa Rica, Cuba and other first-world -- and third-world -- countries are able to secure better health care outcomes than the United States with dramatically lower health care spending. Imagine what -- let's call it the Montana model -- could do for our national debt . And, you know, even more importantly, the health of our people and the wellbeing of our medical professionals.