Huntsville Hospital CEO hopes for bipartisan health bill, favors single-payer system

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The U.S. health care debate has produced no results despite months of debate, and the existing law has a number of parts that need addressing, so Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers has a suggestion.

Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers

“I would like to see the politics removed from this, and a bipartisan plan come together,” Spillers told WHNT News 19.

He says there’s already an existing model, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, BRAC, which figures out which military bases to close and where to move commands and personnel.

“I tend to believe and independent commission of Republicans, Democrats and other people who understand health care should get together and create a health care plan that Congress either votes up or down on, the same way we did BRAC,” he said. “BRAC worked really well because we took the politics out of it. It was a bipartisan decision.”

The passage of the Affordable Care Act by Democrats and the long-running repeal effort by Republicans has left little consensus for the two political parties. But Spillers says it’s clear a one-sided approach won’t work.

“I think there were numerous flaws in the previous health care reform bill,” Spillers said. “I think there were a lot of flaws in the Republican plan. I think the plan that ultimately works for this country, all of us are going to look at it and go, ‘Um, that’s going to be tough, that’s going to hurt a little bit.’”

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Spillers says Americans have decided that we’re not going to leave people to die in the street or suffer needlessly, so the next step is to work out a system to provide health care for everybody.

With that in mind, he said he favors a single-payer model. The basic idea is that it’s like Medicare – which covers Americans 65 and older – for everybody.

The government would be the insurer. People would pay their premiums, likely through a payroll deduction, and the government would set reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals and negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

“I’m a fiscal conservative who believes a single-payer system would probably be a lot more efficient and beneficial to this country than the system that we have in place today,” Spillers said.

For many Americans, the idea of government-run health care is non-starter. But Spillers argues 70 percent of medical costs are paid by the federal or state governments, so the U.S. is already most of the way there.

“I do presentations in the community a lot, we’re a very conservative community here, most times I’ll say, ‘What y’all think about a single-payer system,’ nobody, very few people will raise their hands,” he said. “Well, I ask people, ‘How many of you of you are on Medicare?’ Bunch of hands go in the air.

“‘How many of you like Medicare?’ Bunch of hands go in the air. Medicare is a single-payer system for people over 65. Most people on Medicare like it.”

Spillers is not in favor of a closed health system, like the Veterans Administration – which he said many people assume is the model of a single-payer system – but rather an open system, which is competitive.

“You’re seeing independent hospitals, independent physicians, etc., etc., we’re all competing for your business on cost and quality and service and all those types of things,” he said. “There’s still a market. The difference is, rather than having hundreds of different insurance companies, with hundreds of different plans, there’s one insurance company negotiating everything.”

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