Myths, Lies and Truths about Single-Payer Health Care as the Midterms Approach

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With the midterm elections looming, it is becoming clearer that health care is very important to Americans across the country. A Gallup poll conducted in March 2018 found that 55% “of those polled said they worry ‘a great deal’ about the cost and availability of health care in the U.S. . . .This is the fifth year in a row that Americans have ranked health care as a top concern or that it has been tied for first among the issues.”

Similarly, a Kaiser Health poll, also from March 2018, had roughly the same results: “This month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds six in ten (59 percent) favor a national health plan, or Medicare-for-all, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan – including a majority of both Democrats and independents and about one-third of Republicans. Support for such a proposal increases among the overall public (75 percent) and among partisans (87 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 64 percent of Republicans) when framed as an option for anyone who wants it, but people who currently have other forms of coverage can keep the coverage they already have.” Curbing high pharmaceutical prices is also a high priority for many Americans and is related to the larger health care issue.

Public Citizen, “a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest,” argues that over 60 percent of voters “believe that government is responsible for ensuring health coverage for all Americans.” To that end, in 2017, “a record number of U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers signed on to legislation that would create a single-payer system.” A list of current sponsors for the House version of this legislation, HR 676, can be found here; the bill is supported by over half of all House Democrats (121 members). The Senate version, S. 1804, originally sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has support from 16 Democratic Senators.

It is very important for American citizens to know what these bills and single-payer health care really mean for all of us – and it is similarly vital for citizens to be (or become) voters and elect officials who will promote progressive health care legislation. Historically, Americans have resisted what has been stigmatized as “socialized medicine.” Right-wing politicians for several generations have been highly successful in demonizing government-sponsored health care systems and effectively brainwashing Americans into thinking that anything resembling “socialism” will plunge us into Soviet-style Communism. At this point in our history, we must absolutely reject this propaganda, which has resulted in grotesquely high salaries for top CEOs of large pharmaceutical companies for-profit health care companies, and insurance companies, while at the same time financially devastating millions of Americans who cannot pay their medical bills. As we have noted earlier, furthermore, every other advanced democracy has cost-effective, workable state-run health care systems that consistently result in better health results than our system. In other words, the facts and the evidence from all over the world show that a well-run single-payer health care system is in the best interests of the vast majority of Americans – perhaps significantly less attractive, of course, to extremely wealthy CEOs and the politicians they consistently support…

According to Public Citizen, here are some facts about single-payer health care if it came to the US:

  • Unlike systems where health care facilities are owned by the government, health care delivery would still be provided by private doctors and hospitals.
  • Costs for health care overall would be much lower than they are today. “The increase in taxes required to finance Medicare-for-All would be offset by a reduction in out-of-pocket costs and premiums…. [Lower health care spending would be lower] due, in part, to more effective cost controls under a single-payer Medicare-for-All system, including allowing the government to negotiate with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to ensure Americans are getting fair prices.”
  • Furthermore, “Nearly $600 billion could be saved with simplified single-payer administration, enough to cover all of the nearly 30 million people who are currently uninsured (even with the ACA) and to eliminate co-pays and deductibles for all.”
  • Contrary to another myth that surfaces occasionally, our health care costs are not higher than other nations because we get more and better quality care. On the contrary, as many of us are aware, we often have many challenges accessing physicians, hospitals, and so on compared to citizens of other comparable nations, and the quality of our care is actually lower on many measures. We must keep in mind the sobering fact that “the U.S. ranks last out of 16 industrialized countries for deaths that could be prevented with proper medical care.”
  • Finally, single-payer is not bad for small businesses! “Medicare-for-All would give employers more freedom to keep wages in line with rising costs and would also free up small businesses to devote their energy to innovation and production instead of endless paperwork and phone calls with insurers. Medicare-for-All would also be great for the self-employed. Starting your own small business, holding multiple part-time jobs or working short-term ‘gigs’ would no longer jeopardize your health coverage.”

We progressives need to make absolutely sure that the officials we elect this November, especially at national levels, are at least open to – if not overtly supportive of – a Medicare-for-all or single-payer health care system. Our lives, quite literally, depend on a drastic overhaul of the status quo.