By Laura Bonham–
As an ardent advocate of single-payer healthcare for many years, I am more than a little frustrated by Washington insiders—beholden to healthcare corporations—telling the American people that passing single-payer healthcare reform, specifically HR. 676, the United States National Health Care Act, can’t happen. The fact is they are standing in the way of it happening.
They cite specious reasons like we’re an entrepreneurial nation and need a uniquely American solution, or we can’t afford it, or single-payer won’t work in the U.S. Well it works quite well in the form of Medicare, an incredibly popular and uniquely American program. In a nutshell, HR 676 basically improves and expands Medicare to cover everybody.
The say it can’t happen because Americans don’t want it. Polling indicates otherwise; a January 30, CBS poll shows significant support:
Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago. 59% say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49% who say such insurance should cover all medical problems.
In January 1979, four in 10 thought the federal government should provide national insurance. Back then, more Americans thought health insurance should be left to private enterprise.
Besides being the moral and compassionate thing to do (two values which Americans used to embrace), single-payer healthcare makes good business sense. In this study (PDF), research shows single-payer healthcare/Medicare for all would:
- Create 2,613,495 million new permanent good-paying jobs (slightly exceeding the number of jobs lost in 2008)–jobs that are not easily shipped overseas
- Boost the economy with $317 billion in increased business and public revenues
- Add $100 billion in employee compensation
- Infuse public budgets with $44 billion in new tax revenues
The U.S. already spends far more on healthcare than any other nation; yet with all our power and treasure, we are the lone wealthy industrialized nation that does not ensure healthcare for all of our citizens. Fifty million Americans are currently uninsured, and twenty two thousand of those Americans die every year because they do not have access to healthcare.
Meanwhile, CEOs of healthcare corporations earn $3.3 million to $22.2 million in salary per year, paltry amounts compared to their stock options. When a CEO earns $1.6 billion in stock options (“Business 2006: Who Won, Who Lost,” Associated Press, December 2006), who loses? The average American, that’s who—the people who are dying, getting sick from lack of preventative care, facing bankruptcy from medical bills, losing their jobs and their homes. They are Americans who can’t afford “health insurance” and certainly can’t afford large contributions to senatorial, congressional, and presidential campaigns.
These CEOs and their corporations have senators like Max Baucus (D-MT) in their pocket. Baucus flatly refuses to even discuss single-payer as an option. The time to take this option off the table is after an honest debate of the pros and cons of HR 676, not before.
So why does the lock-down exist? Could it be because many members of Congress and the Senate are dependent on healthcare corporations for contributions to their election campaigns? HR 676 is a simple elegant solution to what ails us. Congress appears hell-bent on creating a complicated and convoluted program, which won’t work because it includes for-profit healthcare corporations as the centerpiece.
All evidence suggests that the majority of Americans want single-payer healthcare, that it would be good for all businesses (with the exception of the healthcare corporations), and that it would stimulate the economy. HR 676, if passed, would create a far more affordable and sustainable system than the current alternatives, which basically puts the healthcare corporations on the public dole and includes mandates that force people who already cannot afford insurance to buy it.
If there ever was an opportune moment for guaranteed healthcare for all, now is that moment. Too bad our elected officials refuse to do what they were elected to do—represent us, instead of the interests of the very powerful and wealthy healthcare corporate lobby. Let your member of Congress know that single-payer healthcare/Medicare for all should, at the very least, be an option that should be discussed. While you’re at it, give Max Baucus a call.