Single-Payer Health Care For the Win?
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
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.
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