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Itís Time for Single Payer, Universal Health Care Coverage for Every American

It’s Time for Single Payer, Universal Health Care Coverage for Every American

By Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), ADA President

Winston Churchill once said that you could always count on Americans to do the right thing after they tried everything else.  Well, we have tried everything else to “fix” health care except the solution that will work: single payer, universal health care coverage.  It’s the right time to do the right thing. 

Single payer would cover every American and use this vast “risk pool” to reduce prices and deliver better care.  When we all work together we all benefit; that’s what the common good is all about.  With single payer, health care costs would be financed by the public sector, but health care services would be delivered by the private sector.  It’s efficient and effective.

When naysayers claim that government shouldn’t concern itself with health care, keep in mind that 70% of health care today is paid for by the federal and state governments.  And when naysayers try to frighten you with an anti-government story, keep this fact in mind: Private health insurance devours an estimated 12% of what you pay in overhead while Medicare consumes less than 4%.

Health care coverage is the single biggest domestic crisis facing America.  It threatens all but the wealthiest Americans.  If you aren’t part of the richest 1%, then you know you are living one phone call, accident, or illness away from financial ruin because of a medical crisis.

America’s health care crisis has ravaged the poor and unemployed for years, and now the epidemic has spread to the Middle Class.  Working Americans account for over half of the estimated 47 million Americans under the age of 65 who lack health insurance.  The number of uninsured children is increasing for the first time in a decade.  The guaranteed access to affordable health insurance with a steady job simply no longer exists.  Even those Americans fortunate enough to have health insurance through work are paying more, getting less, and living under the constant threat they are one job away from economic disaster.  The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America is an unpaid medical bill. 

The special interests would have you believe the solution to the health care crisis is to shop and save.  Create health savings accounts, they argue, and let people set aside money tax free for those trips to the emergency room or post op.  The richest 1% benefit because they can shelter their wealth, but what about everyone else?  Those who oppose single payer believe that going it alone is the answer, America divided into me versus we.   But, America was founded on the common good and it is time we reaffirm this core value.

We have spent the last 14 years diagnosing the problem and applying band aids.  We need to start an aggressive course of treatment.  We have a higher infant mortality rate and lower life expectancy than most other industrialized countries, yet we spend more per capita, two and a half times more, on health care. We have U.S. companies struggling to stay in business under the weight of health care premiums.  When health care costs more than steel in the price of a new car, that’s not just sticker shock, it’s an economic crisis.

We have some of the most cutting edge technology available to fight disease and we should be proud, but the way we finance health care system is more like riding in a horse and buggy. Affordable health care coverage should be a right not a privilege in America.  I’ve introduced single payer legislation in Congress (H.R. 1200) and other Members have offered similar proposals.  What they have in common is this:  The common good, not uncommon greed, leads to single payer, universal health care coverage for all.  The longer we wait, the more Americans will suffer, needlessly.

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