What is the cure for American health care? That is a question that a lot of people are trying to answer, and it’s a highly debated topic, but the answer is plain and simple. Single payer health care is the best form of health care a nation can hope to have. It is efficient, provides quality and timely access to everyone, and it is cost effective. A single payer health care system is a system in which the government, rather than private insurers, pays for all health costs. The system is funded typically through income taxes and is free at the point of use. Some countries with a single payer system include Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia. France is often considered to have the best health care system in the world, but a large group of people (including myself) believe the best system is the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). This is because of its central and efficient operation, as well as high quality standards, low wait times, and staff quality.
To start let’s dismiss some of the common arguments against single payer health care that come from the opposite side, like a single payer system having long wait lists, or that it is very inefficient and expensive. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, fact a recent Public Library of Science study stated, “Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private sector than in the public sector…Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector.” It also found that countries with a single payer system also spend less per capita, and that the United States would save over 150 billion annually. That doesn’t even include personal and business savings which would be thousands of dollars annually, would boost the economy, and make the United States more globally competitive.
This is just one example of the several studies on this issue all saying the same thing, that single payer works and it is inherently the best system a nation could hope to have. A study by the World Health Organization also supports this claim and in a world-wide health care ranking, the United States was ranked 37, Canada was 32, the UK ranked 7, and France number 1. All of the countries ahead of the United States had a form of universal coverage and all of the countries in the top 25 had a single payer system. The OECD (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) performed a study on wait times and found that the wait times in the United States increased by 30% in major U.S. cities, and that the U.S. had above average wait times. However, the U.K. and France were below the average wait times and were in the top five worldwide, both operating under a single payer system. Another organization, based in the United States, that has been pushing for single payer and has also conducted multiple studies is the PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program), an organization of thousands of doctors, nurses, and health specialists. PNHP has been supporting and proposing legislation at the state and federal level for years, gaining little ground. A large reason is health insurance company money in politics, and “corporate” arguments propped up, in large part, by the republican party.
To be clear this isn’t a conservative or liberal issue, in fact, in most countries it’s just a given there are no politics involved. The PNHP explained the conservative argument for single payer health care, saying that it would save money by eliminating bureaucracy, boost American business by eliminating health costs and would also save individuals thousands. Which leads into the next point, the method of payment and how it works. As previously explained, a single payer system is paid for through income taxes, so that means you’re going to see a large increase in income taxes right? Actually no, you aren’t. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that it would call for a 2.2% income tax increase on individuals earning less than $200,000 annually, and cost middle income earners roughly $1,100 that is $3,855 less than the average out of pocket premium. Sadly, even though polls for the last 70 years have consistently shown a majority of Americans support a single payer system, Congress is bought and paid for by health insurance companies.
So, it’s likely there won’t be any action to move to this system, which every major study finds is better, for a whole, on a national level. However, there has been a growing movement for a single payer system on a national level mainly rallied around the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, and even though it might not be possible in the next 4 years, it seems like the inevitable future. At the state level, however, it seems like an increasingly likely outcome within the next few years, and there have been efforts in Vermont, California, and even Minnesota. Current Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has been one of the few Democrats to take the lead on this issue, criticizing Obamacare, supporting a single payer system, and even proposing a public option for MNsure. It is an increasingly likely possibility that Minnesota could adopt a single payer system and we could experience the benefits first hand, however, the current problem is the state legislature doesn’t support any government action on health care and you can probably guess why.
But with midterm elections in two years it’s quite possible things could change and a single payer option could be back on the table. I would like to take a moment to encourage everyone, Conservative or Liberal, to put politics aside and come together on this issue. No one should be denied the right to health care for any reason, and it is important to support candidates who support this basic idea. A local candidate and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Andrew Falk, has been one of the few outspoken local political advocates for a single payer system and has taken the lead on this issue. It’s important to rally around candidates like Falk who turn down corporate dollars and put the interests of the people first. If we all do that a single payer system could be a reality sooner than we think.