Single-payer: Sensible health plan

By the Editorial Board
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Aug. 16, 2011

Some federal courts are ruling that America's breakthrough 2010 medical reform is kaput because government cannot force people to pay for health insurance. (Governments force people to buy car insurance. What's the difference?)

If the historic reform eventually is killed, we hope it leads to a better alternative. We hope America finally joins other advanced democracies by adopting a government-run "single-payer" universal health plan covering every citizen.

America's federal debt nightmare has three obvious causes: (1) The gigantic U.S. military and foreign invasions that gobble $1 trillion per year. (2) Huge Republican tax giveaways to the high-bracket elite. (3) Snowballing Medicare and Medicaid expense as America's population ages.

Regarding the latter, enormous savings could be gained if America switched to a single-payer system. It would eliminate waste by commercial insurance firms, whose large staffs try to avoid paying medical bills. It also would extend medical insurance to millions of "working poor" families who lack it.

Physicians for a National Health Program, a coalition of reform-minded U.S. doctors, says:

"Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health-care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch commented last week:

"If America truly is serious about dealing with its deficit problems, there's a fairly simple solution ... Enact a single-payer health-care plan."

The paper said a universal system could reduce taxpayer costs drastically, "largely by taking the for-profit players (insurance companies, for the most part) out of the loop."

President Obama's 2010 reform compromised with many special interests and did a halfway job, extending coverage to 33 million more Americans. A complete single-payer plan would finish the crusade.

Oddly, conservatives who scream loudest about federal deficits also vow to destroy the 2010 U.S. medical reform. They would dump the 33 million Americans into jeopardy.

Most modern democracies have decided that health care is a human right, available to all. America should join them -- and save $400 billion a year in the process.