Single payer health care needed now

Wow.  This is incredible:

Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, an increase of 50 percent in just six years, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

Amazing to me is that of these bankrupt people whose bankruptcy involved medical bills, 75% of them have health insurance!

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

The researchers further noted:

“Using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income,” the researchers wrote.

“Most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations.”

The researchers, whose work was paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the share of bankruptcies that could be blamed on medical problems rose by 50 percent from 2001 to 2007.

“Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” Harvard’s Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for a single-payer health insurance program for the United States, said in a statement.

http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE5530Y020090604

We need a single payer plan or Medicare for all, in order to deal properly with this problem.  Programs that the Obama administration are developing involve keeping private insurers intact and mandating that all people buy health insurance.  This sort of plan won’t work as has been amply exemplified in numerous states attempts to implement such a program.  Massachusetts is the latest state to try and fail.  Under Mitt Romney (Mormon brother, political enemy) this sort of a plan was instituted in Massachusetts but has had many problems.  You can read all about the failure of the Mass. plan here:

http://www.pnhp.org/mass_report/mass_report_Final.pdf

I am a member of Physicians for a National Health Program and find their website a valuable tool for discerning the facts in the debate over what course our country should take with regards to health care.  You can find that site here:

http://www.pnhp.org/

In spite of recent polls which show that the majority of physicians and of the public favor single payer health care, the topic is not even anywhere near the agenda in the Obama administration.  The insurance companies are too powerful to allow that sort of talk.

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12 Responses to “Single payer health care needed now”


  1. 1 Grégoire June 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    As a guy who has been enrolled in British Columbia’s MSP since 1994, I gotta tellya, the ‘single payer’ concept has a lot of problems.

    My youngest was born in the U.S. because of a severe bed shortage province wide. That was 12 years ago and the problem has become progressively worse since then. Nurses and physicians regularly volunteer on an unpaid basis in BC transit hubs, because BC bedline regularly ships patients to Alberta and Saskatchewan by plane. Many of these people die in the airports.

    The bird-flu epidemic in Toronto which happened a couple of years ago occurred when a sick patient was made to wait on a bench in the parking lot of the hospital for about 12 hours. When he collapsed, he was moved to a gurney in a hallway for another 8, before finally dying without ever seeing a doctor. In the mean time, he coughed on hundreds of people. They had to shut the hospital down. The patient’s experience is sadly typical of hospitals in Canada.

    I was glad to pay to have a varicose vein removed from my leg, in the State of Washington, after being on a waiting list for a full ten years.

    President Obama seems to be looking at the Swiss model (publicly regulated private insurers) which might be the best of all possible worlds. It also might be that it is simply not economically feasible to pay for the standard of care that we now expect out of public funds. Canada and the UK could really only afford public health care because their defense needs were taken care of by the American taxpayer since WWII.

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the matter. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know the UK/Canada model is a dismal failure.

  2. 2 theradicalmormon June 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Gregoire,
    I don’t think the problems you mention with Canada’s system are specific to single payer systems. In fact, they sound quite a bit like many of the problems we have in the USA.
    People die in the USA often waiting for healthcare that is not available to them from their private insurance.
    People have to wait hours upon end in emergency rooms in the US because of all of the people who don’t have insurance who get their primary care needs attended to in emergency rooms for free. Our hospitals have been very instrumental in the spread of the often-times deadly bacteria Staph Aureus, which has become resistant to Methicillin and many other anti-biotics.
    As far as wait times go, I think your 10 year wait may be atypical from what I see from polls out of Canada. The median wait time to see a specialist in Canada is 4 weeks with most people seeing one in less than 3 months. The median wait time for surgery is also 4 weeks.
    Wait times can be thought of as a more fair allocation of available services. If you have 10 people, 3 poor with life threatening illnesses, 3 wealthy with life threatening illnesses, 2 poor with non-life threatening illnesses and 2 wealthy with non-life threatening illnesses (sorry for the clumbsiness of this example), in the a privately funded system, the wealthy would get the first available resources regardless of how necessary their surgeries were. In a socialized system, the people with life-threatening illnesses would get surgery first, regardless of their economic status. The non-life threatening illnesses would then be taken care afterwards as resources were available.
    I don’t like any system that relies entirely upon the private insurers. A lot of our health care dollars goes to administrative costs and private insurers need to show a good bottom line to investors which means making money, and not spending it on care for their customers. The Congressional Budget office estimates that the health care costs in a single payer system in the US would actually save 200 billion dollars whereas most plans by politicians involve spending an extra bunch of money rather than saving.
    We don’t have to pattern our system after Canada. There are a lot of other nations out there that have great systems. New Zealand has a mixed public private and public system. Japan, where my wife is from, has a very satisfactory system. Whenever my wife goes back to visit, she has her optometry done for free.
    I don’t know what the best system is, but I think we can no longer leave our health in charge of the private corporations. Some form of single payer/socialized health care is necessary.

  3. 3 Forest Simmons June 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    You noted that “…The insurance companies are too powerful to allow that sort of talk.”

    When my wife and I hear observations like these, one of us usually repeats the refrain, “… wherefore the world lies in sin,” from section 49.

    Somebody should make a song out of it.

    The banks are too big to fail, wherefore the world lies in sin.

    The banks own enough foreclosed homes to house all of the homeless, wherefore the world lies in sin.

    The USA thinks that it is OK to torture brown people, wherefore the world lies in sin.

    Bombing innocent women and children is unavoidable collateral damage, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

    Capitalists dump tons of poison into our air, water, and food supply day after day, year after year, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

    Forests are clear cut for money, etc. wherefore the world lieth in sin.

    Our oil is under their soil, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

    49:19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

    49:20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

    49:21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.

  4. 4 theradicalmormon June 6, 2009 at 5:52 am

    I really like that scripture too. The first time I was really caused to think about it was when reading Nibley’s “Approaching Zion.” Truly, it is not given that one man should posess that which is above another.

  5. 5 Forest Simmons June 6, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    I’ve always understood this to mean that one man shouldn’t possess more than another, i.e. that men should be equal in their possessions, but I wonder if the particular phrasing has some additional significance.

    If I possess a sweatshop, don’t I “possess that which is above” each of the workers, in the same sense that the secret combinations are above us, as warned in chapter 8 of Ether?

  6. 6 theradicalmormon June 7, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Hmmm. Good point. I love it when someone sees something in the scriptures new. We have to allow the Spirit to teach us through the scriptures and if we allow our favorite interpretation to stand in the way, we’ll probably block out some things the Spirit is trying to teach us.

    I know that the Lord is warning us of the types of evils we see in our day which are particular to our day… evils such as sweatshops and the greater institution of secret combinations from which things like sweatshops are born. So called, “Free trade” agreements such as the M.A.I of the 90s are doubtless a part of the great secret combinations of the latter days which are seeking to overthrow the freedom of all nations as we are warned of in Ether 8.

    Truly, it is not given.

  7. 7 theradicalmormon June 17, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Ralph Nader has this to say about single payer today:

    In 2003, Barack Obama said he was for single payer.

    What would it take to get single payer enacted?

    “First, we have to take back the White House, the Senate and the House,” Obama said at the time.

    Fast forward six years.

    The Democrats have taken the White House.

    The Senate and the House.

    And now what’s Obama’s position?

    In a speech this week in Chicago before the American Medical Association, Obama made clear he was now opposed to single payer.

    And his lieutenants suggested that Obama would support legislation to make sure that single payer does not become a reality in America.

    There’s only one explanation for Obama’s flip-flop on single payer.

    The health insurance and drug corporations have a hammerlock on Washington.

    And Obama is going along to get along.

    What’s the net result?

    Sixty Americans are dying every day due to lack of health insurance. (Institute of Medicine report.)

    Instead of getting behind single payer, Obama and the Democrats are engaged in the what Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief at the highly regarded New England Journal of Medicine calls “the futility of piecemeal tinkering.”

    Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the most liberal of the Democrats’ tinkering plans would cost $1 trillion over ten years and still leave 37 million Americans uninsured.

    Single payer on the other hand would cost less than we are overpaying now — and cover everyone.

    Zero uninsured.

    As Dr. Angell puts it — single payer is not only the best option.

    It’s the only option that will both control costs and cover everyone.

    Replace 1,300 insurance industry payers with one payer.

    Save $400 billion a year in bloated corporate administrative and executive compensation costs.

    Free choice of doctor and hospital.

    Use that money to insure everyone.

    No bills, no co-pays, no deductibles.

    No exclusions for pre-existing conditions — because under single payer, you are insured from the day you are born.

    No bankruptcies due to medical bills.

    No deaths due to lack of health insurance.

    Cheaper. Simpler. More affordable.

    Everybody in. Nobody out.

    According to recent polls, the majority of Americans, the majority of doctors, the majority of nurses, even the majority of health economists want single payer.

    That’s why almost every health care town hall event I hear about is dominated by citizens speaking out for single payer.

  8. 8 Forest Simmons June 18, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Robert Reich pointed out on Bill Moyers that the lobbiests that normally compete with each other for taxpayer money have closed ranks on this one.

    They are a big part of the “secret combinations built up to get power and gain” that have “gotten above us” and become so entrenched that we no longer have a democracy, but a plutocracy.

    How much longer will the cries of the innocent ascend before before “Jacob as a young lion ….?”

  9. 9 Grégoire June 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I never knew how little I actually knew about Mormonism until I started palling around with all you real Mormons. I spent a little less than half my life in Utah and I guess when the doors shut at my house it was less serious study than listening to crypto-polygamist kook folk tales from members of my (greater LeBaron) family. You guys talk about the scriptures and I laugh to admit I know more stories from Qur’an and Talmud at this point in my life.

    Anyway it’s an interesting topic. If there were single payer health care, the U.S. government would not have the means to meddle in the affairs of the rest of the world… it’ll be very expensive and it’ll mean building less tanks, bombs, ICBMs, bullets and rifles at inflated costs through contractors. That in itself makes it worth fighting for, I guess.

  10. 10 theradicalmormon June 22, 2009 at 2:56 am

    It was estimated that a single payer health care system in the USA would save the US government 200 billion dollars by the congressional budget office in the year 2000 when Gore and Bush were presenting their plans which would cost significantly over what the US government was already spending on health care.

  11. 11 theradicalmormon June 24, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    David Lindorff has written an article over at Counterpunch about the potential savings our nation would accumulate were we to extend Medicare to all:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff06242009.html

  12. 12 Forest Simmons June 24, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Grégoire,

    You have contributed to the good spirit of these blogs with your wit, wisdom, and affability.


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