Health Care Reform

Eight Single Payer activists were arrested in May for attempting to tell the truth about health care reform at the Senate Finance Committee meeting.

Corporate Dems, “Single Payer” Health Care, and Two Party System Failure–All Made Real Simple

–Kara Allison

It is only natural that so many people are talking about health care and health care reform these days. I cannot express how excited I am to see the grassroots effort that many of my friends and colleagues have participated in, finally get the national attention it deserves.

But I have to be honest here…

Most of the conversations I hear swirling in and out of coffee shop doors, hovering outside entrances of local pubs, and even those that have boldly entered the confining walls of academia are incredibly misinformed. In these conversations I hear people throwing around words like “single payer” and “universal” interchangeably… Using words they don’t even know the meaning of, like they coined the words themselves.

At a social networking website recently, I noted one person admitting in a comment thread that he knew nothing about Obama’s proposed health care plan, but acknowledging, in the same breath, that reform is needed.  This person took the “I trust Obama, so just pass the bill through” stance.  I navigated away from this site only to return to someone else grumbling about how he shouldn’t have to pay another dime to support the “deadbeat Americans who are too lazy too work”.

I looked down at my check stub for a moment and did some quick math.  Then I decided to visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website to look at their health care rankings. France currently holds the number 1 ranking for the best health care system in the world. Their citizens pay about 10% of their income in taxes.  This includes militia, health care, transportation, etc. I looked down at my check stub again, noting duly, that I pay roughly 23% more in taxes than the average French citizen, work more hours a week on average, and if I get sick, well… I’m fucked.

This past week the House Democrats presented their health care reform bill.  While many people believe that a step in any direction, is a step forward regarding an issue that has been immobile for so long, Obama’s plan—even if it passes—it destined to fail.

Single Payer Action’s Russell Mokhiber, in an email earlier this week, tells us why:

    Because it keeps the insurance industry in the game.
    It will cost a trillion dollars over ten years.
    It won’t cover tens of millions of Americans.
    It won’t control costs.
    And it’s a bailout for the insurance industry.
    Only a single payer — everybody in, nobody out — national health insurance bill (co-sponsored by 85 members of the House — most recently by Congressman John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) will hit the grand slam — cover everyone, save money, control costs, and fix a broken health care system.
    But what struck me yesterday while watching the Democrats was the depth of their deception.
    There was Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
    Both heaping praise upon and honoring Congressman John Dingell (D-Michigan).
    And his father — John Dingell, Sr.
    John Dingell, Sr. represented Michigan’s 15th district for 22 years until his death in 1955.
    John Dingell, Jr. has represented the district ever since.
    But not once during the press conference did anyone mention that it was John Dingell, Sr. who first introduced a single payer bill in Congress in 1943.
    And it was Democratic leaders in Congress and President Barack Obama who took single payer off the table.
    The Republicans will tell you straight up — we’re for big business.
    Single payer is socialism.
    And that’s why we’re against single payer.
    When the Democrats are out of power, they will tell you what you want to hear — we’re for single payer.
    They then take power, and all of a sudden, they are against single payer.
    Take Henry Waxman (D-California) as a case in point.
    For years, Henry Waxman was a co-sponsor of HR 676 — the single payer bill in the House.
    Until earlier this year, when he became part of the leadership in the House.
    Then Waxman took his name off the single payer bill.
    In 2003, Barack Obama said he was for single payer.
    Obama said at the time that we would have single payer in America only when the Democrats took back the White House and Congress.
    Last year, Obama and the Democrats took back the White House and Congress.
    And now President Obama is opposed to single payer.
    The reality is that there is only one solution to the health care crisis — get the insurance companies out of health care.
    The Democrats are now engaged in what Dr. Marcia Angell — former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine — calls “the futility of piecemeal tinkering.”
    Angell and a majority of doctors in the United States — and a majority of the American people — believe that only a major single payer overhaul will get the job done.
    That’s why we’re challenging the Democrats around the country.
    And we will continue to challenge them, and the health insurance industry to whom they are beholden, until single payer becomes a reality in America.

Many health care reform advocates warn that we need to press for “single” payer” and not the “public option” for many reasons: the public option is NOT single payer, it does not confer the benefits of single payer, and is too expensive. The inevitable failure that will result from the “system” including the public option but which also preserves the insurance companies, will only serve to discredit the idea of single payer and set back present and future efforts.

So what’s the solution?

I believe Dennis Kucinich is headed in the right direction with HR676, which is explained in the following:

    Healthcare: Change the Debate
    Support a Real Public Option
    In mid-May, in an effort to reach consensus, President Obama secured a deal with the health insurance companies to trim 1.5% of their costs each year for ten years saving a total of $2 trillion dollars, which would be reprogrammed into healthcare. Just two days after the announcement at the White House the insurance companies reneged on the deal which was designed to protect and increase their revenue at least 35%
    The insurance companies reneged on the deal because they refuse any restraint on increasing premiums, copays and deductibles – core to their profits. No wonder a recent USA Today poll found that only four percent of Americans trust insurance companies. This is within the margin of error, which means it is possible that NO ONE TRUSTS insurance companies.
    Then why does Congress trust the insurance companies? Yesterday HR 3200 “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” a 1000 page bill was delivered to members. The title of the bill raises a question: “Affordable” for whom?.
    Of $2.4 trillion spent annually for health care in America, fully $800 billion goes for the activities of the for-profit insurer-based system. This means one of every three health care dollars is siphoned off for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing and the cost of paper work, (which can be anywhere between 15 – 35% in the private sector as compared to Medicare, the single payer plan which has only 3% administrative costs).
    50 million Americans are uninsured and another 50 million are under insured while for-profit insurance companies divert precious health care dollars to non-health care purposes. Eliminate the for-profit health care system and its extraordinary overhead, put the money into healthcare and everyone will be covered, everyone will be able to afford health care.
    Today three committees will begin marking up and amending HR3200. In this, one of the most momentous public policy debates in the past 70 years, single payer, the only viable “public option,” the one that makes sound business sense, controls costs and covers everyone was taken off the table.
    In contrast to HR3200 … HR676 calls for a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, Medicare for All. It has over 85 co-sponsors in Congress with the support of millions of Americans and countless physicians and nurses. How does HR-676 control costs and cover everyone? It cuts out the for-profit middle men and delivers care directly to consumers and Medicare acts as the single payer of bills. It also recognizes that under the current system for-profit insurance companies make money NOT providing health care.
    This week is the time to break the hold which the insurance companies have on our political process. Tell Congress to stand up to the insurance companies. Ask members to sign on to the only real public option, HR 676, a single-payer healthcare system.
    Hundreds of local labor unions, thousands of physicians and millions of Americans are standing behind us. With a draft of HR3200 now circulating, It is up to each and every one of us to organize and rally for the cause of single-payer healthcare. Change the debate. Now is the time.

There are approximately 200 countries that exist on our planet and each of these countries has devised its own plan to meet the health care needs of its citizens.  When studying collectively the health care systems of the world, one will note that four patterns tend to emerge.  Hence, health care systems can be divided, for the most part, into four basic models.  A brief outline of  the four health care models can be found at :

The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. All the other countries have settled on one model for everybody. This is much simpler than the U.S. system; it’s fairer and cheaper, too. The time for health care  reform in the United States has finally come.  It is imperative that we educate ourselves and press our government to make the right decision.  A weak foundation now, will be the cause of failure in the future.  How much more failure can we afford?

Kara Allison is an academic librarian, freelance writer, and activist living in Cincinnati, Ohio.