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Single payer health care

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By The Staff

Last month Barbara and another member of Progressive Voices of Levy County, Drollene Brown, handed out single-payer literature at the farmer’s market in Williston. Almost everyone was willing to stop and discuss the issue. Most agreed that every American should have equal access to comprehensive health care. And some shared their own health care-related nightmares, such as the man who told how his employer had quit paying for health insurance in order to keep everyone’s wages the same, but then cut everyone’s wages anyway.

There are currently more than 45 million uninsured Americans. Each year approximately 20,000 Americans die needlessly because they don’t have health insurance. Last year almost half of all bankruptcies were attributable to health care costs. And 75 percent of those folks had health insurance. Things have gotten so out of hand that current polls now show a majority of Americans in favor of some kind of universal coverage.

There is a bill in Congress called HR 676—The United States Health Insurance Act. This single-payer health care plan has 78 co-sponsors. A significant number of progressive groups are throwing their support behind this bill—groups such as Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), The California Nurses Association and Progressive Democrats of America. This kind of reform has put the health care industry giants into panic mode.

Health care reform hearings are now taking place in Washington, D.C., and there are health care reform bills in both the House and Senate. As Barbara and I see it, the one thing missing from what’s being offered is reform itself.

Promises have recently been made to the president by the health insurance industry to voluntarily reduce costs. Similar promises were made to President Carter’s administration in the 1970s. When President Clinton attempted to reform health care in the 1990s he was met not only with more promises but with a health care industry-sponsored television ad campaign designed to spread fear throughout the country. Similar television ads sponsored by the health insurance industry are starting to appear once again.

You may not have heard of HR 676 or know anything about a single-payer health care plan, because that’s the way the health insurance industry wants it.

In a recent Senate Finance Committee roundtable on health care reform the health insurance industry had 15 representatives. The single-payer groups had none. Every single-payer supporter in the audience who spoke out for fair representation was arrested.

Between 1988 and 2007 health insurance premiums rose an average of 9.9 percent. During that same time inflation rose 3.1 percent while American workers’ wages grew only 3.2 percent. Letting the present health care establishment continue to be responsible for our health care coverage is as dangerous as playing Russian roulette. Can we truly allow the fox to keep guarding the hen house?

Barbara and I believe the only solution to our health care crisis is to rid ourselves of the health insurance industry altogether. We support the implementation of a single-payer health care system.

Single-payer means a single source will pay all bills directly to the health care provider. The source would be the U.S. government: Your employer would pay a seven percent payroll tax, and you would pay about two percent. You would not have any other medical expenses, period. You would be covered for all medically necessary services including rehabilitative, long-term and home care as well as mental health care, prescription drugs and medical supplies, dental and vision. All deductible and co-payments would be eliminated. You would be able to choose your own doctor and hospital. Doctors would remain mostly in private practice and hospitals would remain privately owned and operated. And all decisions would be between you and your doctor, without government intrusion.

A single-payer system would be able to negotiate the best rates for services, tests and medicines. Overhead expenses would be greatly reduced, because there won’t be the bloated insurance costs in between. Projections show that four trillion dollars will be saved over the first 10 years in a single-payer setup.

Research single-payer health care for yourself. One site we recommend starting at is the Frequently Asked Questions page at PNHP’s site— http://www.pnhp.org/facts/singlepayer_faq.php. In order for single-payer to have a chance, it will take a concerted effort from all of its supporters. Calls, letters and e-mails to congressmen, senators and the White House are needed now. Your action will determine the course of our nation’s health care.