Single-Payer Health Care For the Win?

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It’s been awhile since Obama’s proposal for universal health
care was replaced by a compromise known as the Affordable Care Act. Despite
detractors from the right and left, Obamacare’s sell-that the Act would give
millions of uninsured Americans coverage-appeased many. But now, as we wait to
hear the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable
Care Act, some have begun to whisper of a second chance for a single-payer
system.

If the Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act’s
individual mandate unconstitutional, single-payer
will almost certainly be back on the table
, writes Yes! Magazine‘s Sarah van Gelder (citing Labor Secretary Robert
Reich
and columnist Rick
Ungar
of Forbes Magazine). Van Gelder argues that single-payer
is what Americans want. “In poll after poll, a majority of Americans have
expressed support for single-payer health care or national health insurance.”

This may be the chance to get it, but proponents will have
to make their voices heard. “[I]t would be a long and difficult process,” reasons Arnold Relman in The American Prospect, “that would be
bitterly opposed by the private insurance industry and its friends […]
Nevertheless, there are reasons I believe this transformation has at least a
chance of becoming reality.” With an informed, engaged public and strong
support from doctors, Relman writes, single-payer advocates stand a fighting
chance to win the attention of legislators and outweigh the influence of lobbyists.

The stakes may be higher than ever, since a single-payer
system would save Americans $570 billion
, reports economist Gerald Friedman
in Dollars & Sense. Though a
single-payer system “would raise some costs by providing access to care for
those currently uninsured or under-insured, it would save much larger sums by
eliminating insurance middlemen and radically simplifying payment to doctors
and hospitals. While providing superior health care, a single-payer system
would save as much as $570 billion now wasted on administrative overhead and
monopoly profits.” In the midst of a recession, with great need to invest in
renewable energy sources, education, sustainable transportation, and local food
systems, Americans may have a chance to do more with their money than line the pockets of
insurance company shareholders.

Image by Keith Ellison, licensed under Creative Commons.

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