Puerto Rico to Consider Single-Payer Universal Health System

The United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is giving serious consideration to a single-payer universal health system. On the last day of the current legislative session the island’s House of Representatives passed a measure creating a special commission to look into the idea. While opposed by some local insurance companies, the commission received backing from various organizations, including the island’s Doctors and Surgeons Association and the Social Work Graduate School at the University of Puerto Rico, among others — according to a report in the daily Metro.

The proposal was submitted by House Speaker Jaime Perello and Health Committee Chair Lydia Mendez, and the commission will be comprised of 20 members and an operating budget of US$300,000. The committee’s job is to study the possibility of implementing universal health care in order to fix “inequalities” in health care services. The report goes on to say that at present 90 percent of the island’s residents have health insurance at the present time.

Those are the facts as we have them. In addition, Puerto Rico currently has a $70 billion debt; $30 billion in underfunded pension liabilities; a declining population including the loss of thousands of professionals who are leaving the island for better work (including doctors); and an unemployment rate around 13 percent.

How do they plan to pay for this new system should it eventually be established?

Under Puerto Rico’s system of government there are no mid-term elections, meaning that the Popular Democratic Party — which currently controls the House and the Senate, as well as the Governor’s office — will be in control until at least January of 2016. A proposal with the support of the House Speaker is therefore likely to pass should one be recommended by the commission. While I don’t have a list of the members of the new commission in hand at the time of this writing, I assume that there are no members who oppose the idea as strenuously as it should be opposed.

The recent experience with Obamacare, where the president promised people they could keep their current insurance plans, only find out that so far 5 million people have received cancellation notices, should be a clear indicator that government control of health care is a bad idea. Even England has begun opening the door again to private medical clinics after decades of socialized medicine following a Swedish example. The internet abounds with stories of year-long waits leading to death thanks to “universal” coverage in Canada, England, and elsewhere.

Let’s start with the obvious. Socialized medicine lowers service, raises prices (even if paid indirectly), leads to longer waits than already exist, and kills people.

Given that the island currently has a per capita debt ratio 10 times higher than any other US state, how can the island seriously consider yet another massive central planning debacle?

With the loss of professionals, who have been hit hard by the island’s economic woes of the last five years, who will be left to staff the hospitals and clinics if the amount they earn drops even more and if they can no longer find enough staff to man their hospitals? Sure, it’s gloom and doom scenario, but the fact remains that it is the direction Puerto Rico is heading.

Proponents of single payer systems in the Caribbean point to Cuba’s universal coverage system as a model for how to do it right. They forget that governments lie, even when there is freedom of press, and when there isn’t they lie more. Here is a video that shows you exactly what Cuba’s perfect universal health system is for the average person who actually has to use it and has no other choice.

Despite this video and many others like it, there are more and more videos on YouTube of leaders in the medical profession who continue to highlight the value of single payer systems, using the Cuban system as a model. Why? Have they not seen the other videos?

Luckily I am not the only person who doesn’t like the idea and hopefully our voices will be heard before Puerto Rico takes a fatal step into universal care.

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