Health care reform has been put back into play by President Obama and the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate. A seven-hour televised summit between Republicans and Democrats last Thursday accomplished nothing. An event that was supposed to foster bipartisan cooperation only further exemplified the divisiveness of this issue. Republicans would like to see health care reform smothered in its cradle, while Democrats continue to grasp at straws (and votes) that do not appear to exist.
The Republicans remain adamant in their quest for the status quo. They loudly (and often) proclaim that our current health care system is the best in the world. That claim, though, could not be further from the truth. The United States doesn't even rank in the top 10 when compared to the health care systems of other nations.
We are in 37th place and we pay twice as much for that distinction. This ranking is an average of the following: we are 39th in the world for infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality and 35th for life expectancy. Yet Republicans persist in extolling the virtues of our failing health care system.
Democrats fair no better in their attempt to convince this nation that what they propose will result in reform. The most egregious element of Democratic health care reform is the mandate that will force individuals to purchase insurance from the health insurance industry. Moreover, most employers will be forced to provide health insurance for their employees. With our nation currently in the midst of an unemployment nightmare it is inconceivable that anyone would honestly believe requiring universal purchase of health insurance (without a public option) will be beneficial for anyone other than the health insurance industry.
Which should I choose? Door number one (the Republican option) or door number two (the Democrat option)? Through door number one I would do nothing other than watch the cost of my already outrageously priced health insurance policy continue to rise at the whim of profit-soaked corporate money-mongers. Through door number two would be the further exacerbation of the economic deathtrap this country has become. The only clear winner here is the health insurance industry, because they are part and parcel of either outcome. If nothing changes they win. Even if a bill should somehow make it out of our bickering Congress alive and land on the President's desk for signature the insurers win. They win because no system that did not include Big Insurance and Big Pharma was ever seriously regarded.
While the rest of the industrialized nations of our world are happily (and healthfully) living with single-payer health care solutions, our lawmakers banished that alternative without the slightest consideration. It would appear the lobbying efforts (many millions of dollars) of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries found their marks. How surprising is that?
There is a third door. It is called single-payer. Sometimes it is referred to as ¨Medicare for All¨. Despite what many would have you believe, a single-payer system is not the same as socialized medicine. Single-payer means only that there is a single insurance pool from which health care costs are paid. The term single-payer describes only the funding mechanism—referring to health care being paid for by a single public body from a single fund—and does not specify the type of delivery, or who doctors work for.
Single-payer health insurance collects all medical fees and then pays for all services through a single source, usually government-related. In wealthy nations, this kind of publicly-managed health insurance is usually extended to all citizens and legal residents.
Some examples of single-payer universal health care systems are: Australia's Medicare, Canada's Medicare, the United Kingdom's National Health Service and Taiwan's National Health Insurance. Medicare in the United States is an example of a single-payer system for a specified, limited group of persons within a country. And that group is comprised of our oldest and sickest citizens. Opening this group to everyone would reduce costs greatly, because the young and the healthy would also be included, spreading the costs universally and reducing the amount spent per person.
Single-payer health care advocacy groups such as Physicians for a National Health Program (http://www.pnhp.org), Healthcare-Now (http://www.healthcare-now.org) and Mobilization for Health Care for All (http://mobilizeforhealthcare.org) are very strong organizations who are not giving up the fight to see single-payer legislation passed. At any one of the above sites you can find answers to questions you may have about single-payer or you can simply sign up to help support this necessary cause.
For an individual testimonial from a U.S. citizen, ask anyone 65 years of age (or older) how he or she feels about Medicare.