The House of Representatives is now going to vote on a single-payer health care proposal, thanks to the advocacy of Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York.  Is it going to pass in America?  Let’s focus on saying that it should pass.  Here’s why.

Time Magazine reported in its August 10th special issue on health care that it is projected that health care expenditures will exceed 20% of the GDP of the US by 2018.  Currently we spend about 17% or so of our GDP on Health Care, yet we rank behind 18 other industrialized nations in deaths that could have been medically prevented.  According to the group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), “Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.”  The PNHP points out that Americans spend over twice what other industrialized countries spend on health care, yet over 45 million are uninsured and many more are inadequately covered.

The PNHP points out the primary reason why for-profit health insurance systems necessarily cost more than single-payer public options:

Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.

This is one of the main reasons why the arguments for the efficiency of capitalism and the “free market” in lowering costs are false in every industry:  as corporations become larger and their industries tend towards monopoly or oligopoly (one or a few dominant firms controlling the majority of a market), they have more power to set prices independent of “supply and demand,” choosing high profit margins over controlling cost for the consumer, and beyond that their costs become inflated with hidden charges for services, increasing levels of unproductive employees (such as advertisers and management), and even costs incurred through their lobbying efforts to thwart the public interest.  Health insurers make higher profits when they charge as much as they can get from desperate consumers, and pay out as little as possible.  Our nation is expected to spend 1/5 of our GDP on inadequate health care because, as a very privatized health care society, we allow these companies free reign, and accept arguments that serve to deflect attention from our real problems and their real solutions.

The PNHP site has a variety of links supporting and explaining single-payer health care, and I would direct anyone wanting a greater understanding of the option to that site.  Single-payer health care is more rational and efficient than our current system and would help our nation in a variety of ways.  It should pass.

The single-payer health care proposal would provide comprehensive health care to all individuals while leaving them choice among doctors, and give the public democratic control over health priorities and policies (subject to the limitations of the American system of government, of course) while leaving the individual seeking health care and their doctor absolute autonomy.  In fact, the PNHP states the following as two further key features of single-payer health care.

  • Ban on For-Profit Health Care Providers
    Profit seeking inevitably distorts care and diverts resources from patients to investors
  • Protection of the rights of health care and insurance workers
    A single-payer national health program would eliminate the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people who currently perform billing, advertising, eligibility determination, and other superfluous tasks. These workers must be guaranteed retraining and placement in meaningful jobs.

The PNHP points out that the profit motive is harmful in health care, and the same logic shows by extension that the profit motive is harmful to any consumer in any area, specifically those that directly affect human welfare.  Single-payer health care is the answer to our health problem in America, and it is our only answer.

As a radical, however, it would be irresponsible for me to stop my analysis or advocacy there.  Single-payer health care, as proposed, is the system of health care that would exist in a socialist society (save for certain steps like democratic worker control), but truly socialized industries cannot peacefully exist with an otherwise callous capitalist society.  Private industry will continue to have political influence, continue monopolization, and thus have ever increasing power over our society.  The whole capitalist class will have an interest in secretly undermining the single-payer health care system because health care is so absolutely profitable.  Years later, in societies like America where the working class sees the ruling class interests as its own, and becomes easily persuaded and easier pacified, aspects of privitization may start to creep in (such as the gradual privitization of the Swedish ‘welfare capitalism’ model, including its single-payer health care).  The move to single-payer health care does not replace the need for socialism; quite the contrary.  We need single-payer health care to pass, and from then on we have a reference point to show the superiority of a socialist-style industry.  This will only work if we remain diligent in refusing to allow any privitization to creep in.  Let us be active in our advocacy of single-payer health care, and loud in our voice, so that the Obama administration and congress cannot help but know the true will of the American people: We Want Single-Payer Health Care.

PNHP: http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php

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