Health care paper chase, 1993: The cost to the nation, the states, and the district of Columbia

I. Hellander, D. U. Himmelstein, S. Woolhandler, S. Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The U.S. health care payment system is an elaborate and increasingly wasteful paper chase. This article presents new state-by-state estimates of health care administrative costs in the United States, and savings that could be realized with single-payer reform. In 1993, health care bureaucracy will consume 24.7 cents of every health care dollar, a total of $232.3 billion. Administration's share of health spending is up from 23.9 percent in 1987, and from 21.9 percent in 1983. Reducing the cost of administration to Canadian levels by adopting a single-payer health care system would cut U.S. health care bureaucracy by more than half (50.7 percent), saving at least $117.7 billion in 1993. The savings achievable with a single-payer system could fund universal access for the uninsured and improve benefits for the tens of millions of Americans who currently have only partial coverage, without any increase in overall health spending. Reform measures such as electronic billing, insurance industry consolidation, and increased competition (including 'managed competition') would save little or nothing on administration. Only a single-payer reform that incorporates the 'macro- management' approach to cost control, as in Canada, can achieve significant administrative savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Health care paper chase, 1993: The cost to the nation, the states, and the district of Columbia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this