Many people have no health insurance coverage. Unpayable medical bills cause about half of personal bankruptcies. Of these, three quarters befall people who actually have insurance at the outset of their illness, only to find themselves overwhelmed by costs not covered due to treatment denials, high co-pays, coverage limits, or ex-post-facto cancellation of their policies. All this, and our total health care bill is still twice what Canada pays per capita, 2.5 times what Great Britain pays, and they both cover everyone fully. Even if you don’t like Michael Moore, be sure to see “Sicko”. Don’t miss the DVD extras on the moral dimension to the healthcare question. Also, see the film “John Q”, with Denzel Washington.
House Resolution 676, the single-payer ‘Medicare for All’ bill now before Congress, would deliver universal healthcare for everyone for the same total cost we pay now, and with more choice of providers, not less, as is often falsely claimed. As with Medicare, private providers would be paid from tax collections, which cuts out the insurance companies. HR 676 somewhat resembles the Canadian system, with twice the funding.
Obama and Clinton agree that single-payer is the best system, but both say it’s “politically impossible”. It is absent from their healthcare plans. Both keep the insurance companies involved, actually adding subsidies from US taxpayers to the premium payments flowing to the insurance companies.
Why? That’s not what voters want. When polled, most voters say they prefer universal, single-payer health insurance, like that of HR 676. But the insurance companies strongly oppose any move to single payer. Going to single payer would shut off the torrent of cash flowing in to them, so the insurance companies divert a fraction of that cash flow to buy the votes needed to block it—contrary to the wishes and the interests of the very premium payers who supply the cash. A truly vicious circle: we pay to be denied what we want.
For every member of Congress there are four healthcare lobbyists, who spray cash freely to anyone willing to go against the interests of their constituents and oppose HR 676. The media don’t expose this. Even C-Span and NPR rarely report on single-payer healthcare—many voters don’t even know what ‘single payer’ means. The insurance companies are left free to misrepresent it, and how they pay to block it is left unexposed.
At present, US employers and individuals pay $950 billion premium dollars per year to insurance companies, who pass on payments to treatment providers—doctors and hospitals—after slicing off a big chunk for their own expenses and profits. Big expenses. Big profits. Lots of cash for lobbyists.
Think about it: in return for the 31% of total healthcare receipts they cost, what value do the insurance companies deliver? Answer: None. Instead, they subject patients to the worries and sometimes the tragedies of treatment denials, and harass treatment providers with forms to fill out and phone calls to make for treatment and payment approvals. The net: they add negative value, and cost much more than Medicare.
A tax-supported single-payer system would be much simpler and far more efficient. It would save the 1/3 of healthcare costs now attributable to the insurance companies. Those costs, worse than wasted, can instead be used to cover everyone who today lacks coverage. Imagine the Canadian system—with twice the funding! The ‘waiting lines’ that opponents of single-payer so love to cite would be gone.
Retaining insurance companies, as the plans of Obama and Clinton both do, dooms ‘universal healthcare’ to becoming a crazy quilt of complexity, higher costs, subsidies, mandates, government intrusion, higher taxes, and incomplete coverage, wide open to justifiable political attacks from both the left and the right.
But what if Barack or Hillary were now to defy the insurance companies and come out for HR 676, as Kucinich did? He or she could not be ignored, as he was. They could offer what voters want, be morally and fiscally responsible, and champion a healthcare system for everyone that would actually work.
Whatever the candidates do, we voters must demand HR 676 from Congress. For more on HR 676, see: http://www.pnhp.org . Contact your Representative in Congress and press for it. To confirm who your Representative is, see: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd .
Shout out for single-payer healthcare. Even more than campaign funds, every elected official needs votes. Thank them if they support HR 676; let them know you will oppose them if they do not get behind it.