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Simpler Paperwork, Better Health Care

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For at least a decade, experts have talked about reducing the health care paperwork to save a ton of money.

So, how are we doing on simplifying and saving? Not well at all.

That's the conclusion of doctors who published a study last week comparing U.S. and Canadian health care costs. They found that the gap between the two countries' administrative costs widened greatly from the late '80s to the end of the '90s.

The authors have strong views favoring a single-payer health system. Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein, one of her co-authors, wrote a recent proposal for a national health plan.

Along with their study, the New England Journal of Medicine published an opinion piece from Dr. Henry Aaron, an economist with the Brookings Institution. He suggested that the study may have exaggerated the cost differences and, in any case, Americans are unlikely to trust a national system.

Their examination found administrative costs running at $1,059 per person in this country, compared with $307 in Canada. U.S. insurers run up large advertising costs, and doctors file claims with numerous insurers.

Woolhandler and Himmelstein's findings will ring true with many patients, physicians and companies that buy health insurance. We'll never know what changes are appropriate for U.S. health care unless the current system is questioned.

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