The first time I wrote about single-payer, in a column at The State, my headline was “Can anyone (any viable candidate, that is) say ‘single-payer?’”
That was 2007. As I said at the time:
CAN ANYONE among those with a chance of becoming president say “single-payer?” If not, forget about serious reform of the way we pay for health care.
It doesn’t even necessarily have to be “single-payer.” Any other words will do, as long as the plan they describe is equally bold, practical, understandable, and goes as far in uprooting our current impractical, wasteful and insanely complex “system.”
And the operative word is “bold.” Why? Because unless we start the conversation there, all we might hope for is that a few more of the one out of seven Americans who don’t have insurance will be in the “system” with the rest of us — if that, after the inevitable watering-down by Congress. And that’s not “reform.” Actual reform would rescue all of us from a “system” that neither American workers nor American employers can afford to keep propping up.
But the operative word to describe the health care plans put forward by the major, viable candidates is “timid.”…
Which is what led us to “Obamacare,” an overly complex, timid approach that still leaves millions of Americans uncovered.
But when I wrote that, I knew we weren’t likely to do any better than that, because the only “name” Democrat willing to say “single-payer” was Dennis “The Menace” Kucinich.
And today, the charge is led by… Bernie Sanders. And even he wants to call it something other than single-payer — namely, “Medicare for All.”
The somewhat better news is that he has 15 senators with him this time (all Democrats, of course) — only 45 votes short of what it would take to get the proposal through the Senate before it went down in flames in the House, as it surely would.
Never mind that EVERY alternative advanced looks insanely over-complex and inefficient next to a system that simply covers everybody. No more worrying about making too much money, or too little money, or getting laid off and losing your medical coverage. Or sticking to a lousy job for the benefits, rather than going out and doing something bold and courageous that might help build our economy. No more of doctors having to employ people who spend all their time trying to navigate the bewildering array of different kinds of coverage their patients have.
And I’ve never heard a reason not to do this that didn’t sound idiotic. The most devastating argument opponents come up with is that you might have to wait for certain kinds of procedures. Which certainly beats waiting until you die if you don’t have coverage under the current non-system.
Other countries, including those most like our own — Britain and Canada — adopted this approach long, long ago. But in this country, we have this completely irrational resistance that makes it impossible even to have a calm conversation about what makes sense.
It’s time we got over that. And we may be making progress in that direction. But we have such a long, long way to go…