By Helen Thomas –
Americans can be thankful for two humanitarian presidents whose legacies stand as emblems of caring values that enrich us as a nation.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt won passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare legislation in 1965.
Social Security and Medicare work beautifully and provide security and medical care to millions of American families, especially now in hard economic times.
Imagine what America would be without.
President Obama should follow the formula of his two predecessors and support a “single payer” health plan, assuring universal health care in this country.
Usually, the “single payer” is a government agency that provides one-stop health coverage. In contrast, the American system of paying for health care is a chaotic wasteful porridge of health providers, private insurance plans with wide variations in coverage, deductibles, co-pays, etc.
The best way for the United States to move toward a single payer system would be to expand Medicare for everyone – and why not? It won’t be free – everyone would have to kick in.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs recently came up with several lame excuses about why a single-payer system was not acceptable to the Obama administration.
He said the goal of the president’s health care reform objective was “to cut costs for families that are watching their premiums and their co-payments and their deductibles skyrocket.”
Experts who have compared the various plans say a government-run single payer plan would be less expensive than private insurance. There would be less overhead and no marketing costs and no compulsion to rack up profits.
There are some 47 million people without health insurance – and thousands more are losing their health benefits with their jobs.
Gibbs said the president “looks forward to working with Congress to find a workable solution that can get through Congress.”
That may be the bottom line, the part about getting through Congress. Obama does not want to pick fights with Congress, where there are many Democrats as well as Republicans who oppose any kind of single payer program.
Obama is leaving it to Congress to design the specifics of a health reform program that he hopes will produce universal health coverage.
Well, Congress should take him up on that. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and other House members are sponsoring H.R. 676 that would create a single payer health plan in the United States.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has sponsored similar legislation in the Senate (S.2031).
Their proposal would provide health insurance coverage for every person in the United States. It would provide all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, as well as dental, mental health, physical therapy, hearing and vision aids and long-term care.
It touches all bases.
In stressing the negative, Gibbs noted that there are 535 opinions in Congress on health reform and that the president is not about to take them on. Obama has enough on his plate already, with two wasteful wars draining our finances and resources.
Hillary Clinton tried her hand at health care reform when she was first lady in 1993-1994. She drafted a plan so complicated that few understood it – it was dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.
Obama has endorsed some form of “public plan” health insurance that – at least in some versions – would create a government agency to provide lower-cost medical insurance in competition to private insurance providers.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans have expressed their opposition to such a “government-run” program. They argue that it would devastate private insurance companies because customers would switch to less-expensive government-provided coverage.
With our shocking unemployment rate and with employer-provided health coverage evaporating for the millions of workers who are now jobless, it’s time for Congress to pay attention.
The president and Congress should embrace the most efficient and fairest way to pay for universal health coverage. They should create a single-payer program.