Dr. Tom Kluzak, a retired physician from Wichita and former head of the University of Kansas Medical School’s Pathology Department, discussed a single-payer health insurance system last Saturday at the library.
Photo by JP Crumrine

Dr. Thomas Kluzak, a retired physician from Wichita and former head of the University of Kansas Medical School’s Pathology Department, spoke Saturday at the Idyllwild Library about a single-payer health insurance system. Kluzak is passionately in favor of a single-payer system.

A single-payer system is often referred to a “Medicare for All.” A single public or quasi-public agency organizes healthcare financing but the delivery of the care remains largely in private hands, according to the Physicians for a National Health Program.

“Practicing medicine and seeing what happens to people, the current system makes no sense,” he stated. “We need ‘Medicare for All’.”

He questions why the public accepts a “single-payer” system for police and fire protection, but opposes the concept for healthcare.

Hospitals with emergency rooms must accept, as a patient, someone with complaints regardless of whether they have insurance. In this limited instance, we are already paying for everyone’s care, Kluzak noted.

A single-payer system will benefit not only individuals, with or without insurance, but doctors, too, in Kluzak’s opinion. His strong feelings about this topic evolved over 30 years of looking through a microscope at the healthcare system.

“Essentially, we remove the intermediary — insurance companies — and create a savings,” he said. Administrative costs for Medicare are about 2 percent. For most insurance companies, administrative expenses approach or exceed 30 percent. These include advertising and sales staff. In addition, doctors and hospitals maintain administrative staff to submit bills and respond to insurance inquiries.

“Drug companies pay more on marketing and administration than research,” Kluzak said.

Besides the substantial financial savings, which Kluzak foresees, the quality of medical care will improve, too. No longer will insurance administrative staff have approval over your physician’s recommendations and actions caring for your health.

Not only will it eliminate the time insurance staff need to review and advise on the doctor’s orders, but will likely lead to elimination of excessive tests needed to justify a doctor’s decision.

Kluzak’s opinion is not an aberrant view among the medical professions. He is a PNHP member. A nonprofit research and education organization, PNHP is composed of more than 20,000 physicians who advocate a single-payer health system.

He and PNHP stress that a single-payer system is not “socialized medicine.” The doctors and hospitals remain private. They receive their compensation from the single-payer. Currently, payments come from a multitude of sources, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has authored House of Representatives 676, a bill to establish a single-payer system for the U.S. It authorizes a privately delivered, but publicly funded, universal healthcare system. He argues that the U.S. healthcare costs are double the costs in other countries with single-payer systems such as France, Germany and Canada.

Kluzak and his wife, Kathy, have been Idyllwild residents since January 2016. The uprooted Kansans followed their son and grandchildren to California. They found Idyllwild and are only a few hours from their family.