Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Health Care for All of Us

I know that I am not smart enough to pen a cogent argument for a national single-payer health care system. But after having seen Michael Moore's most recent (and least politically polarizing) film Sicko I am galvanized to support the concept even more than I have in the past.

Right now there is a bill pending in the House (H.R. 676) that would create approximately the same kind of national health care system found in Canada, France and the U.K. As one Newsweek commentator puts it, you can think of it like "Medicare for all". This bill, by the way, is co-sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential candidate who explicitly supports a single payer system. As a Chicagoan I know it's never a good idea to "back no losers" so I sent the Obama campaign a letter questioning the candidate's stance on health care. I got this pretty good response back:

Promoting affordable and accessible health care is a priority of mine in the U.S. Senate. Health care should be a right for everyone, not a privilege for a few. The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet more than 45 million Americans are uninsured. This is unacceptable. Addressing this problem should be a top priority for our Federal government. I am constantly disappointed by the lack of positive discussion and action on health care issues in Washington. Too many Americans are working hard but cannot afford their health care bills. Too many employers are finding it difficult to offer the coverage their employees need. Day to day, this is an enormous problem, let alone when a personal crisis hits.

I am certainly supportive of the goal of universal health care in the U.S. As you may know, I have called for universal health care by 2012. This call for coverage does not translate into a call for a single-payer system. Although I personally see great merit in a single-payer health care system, given the current political climate I believe that building upon and strengthening our employer-based system will provide a better chance of creating consensus and achieving the goal of universal health care. Regardless, I view federal subsidies to expand coverage for uninsured individuals, controlling the costs of premiums and copays for those with coverage, increased focus on preventive health programs and quality improvement, and health IT implementation as a few of the key tenets of any successful health care reform plan.

It'd be nice if Obama had a more principled and less "practical" stance on this issue, but there's no arguing with the relative popularity of Barack vs. Dennis. So, there you have it.

It seems to me that this change is going to come from Congress, cajoled by the huddled, under-insured masses. Please urge your representatives to support and co-sponsor H.R. 676 if they are not doing so already.

For more info on an American single payer health care system, please visit:

Physicians for a National Health Care System