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Single-payer isn't socialism

Letter to the Editor
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
February 27, 2008

As a long-time Seattle physician, I was pleased that the P-I supports health care reform toward a single-payer system (Opinion, Wednesday). Most Americans now fully understand that our health care delivery system is too expensive, too complex, too fragmented and overwhelmingly frustrating. Although some still believe that America has the best health care in the world, the truth is that our reimbursement system is killing us. The “health” of a country’s healthcare system can be inferred by looking at how we treat our most precious citizens: our children. International ranking of infant mortality by our own CIA now places the United States at 42 out of 222 countries, behind Hong Kong, Portugal, Korea, Macau, most of Europe and Cuba! In 1989, the United States was ranked at 19th. To allow this decline to continue is a moral outrage.

Many fear that a single-payer model is “Socialized Medicine.” In fact, a single simplified health care finance system is good for business. Our employment-linked health insurance system may have worked fine during the Cold War era, but today it is crippling American business. Businesses leaders and labor unions understand that shifting to a government-sponsored single-payer system isn’t a form of socialism. It is a more cost-effective, fair and universal system that can help restore our ability to compete in today’s international market place. This will preserve American business and American jobs.

Lastly, some fear universal healthcare would lead to rationing of benefits. But rationing is already being done by our insurance industry disguised under the euphemism of “medical necessity” or “covered service.” I am outraged when my patients tell me they can not get the medication or treatment they need because their insurance company will not cover it and they can not afford to pay out of pocket. It is time for our leaders to put aside fear and radically transform our healthcare finance system toward a single-payer system for our children and our future. It is economically and morally the healthy step to take.

B. Jason MacLurg, M.D.
Seattle, WA