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Single-payer is still needed to ensure health care for all

By Madeline Zevon
The Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.), Feb. 14, 2011

By 2019, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will improve health-care access by extending health insurance to 32 million more people than are now covered — 16 million through Medicaid starting in 2014, and the rest through subsidies to help lower-income people to afford health insurance.

Although the current legislation extends coverage and institutes reforms of the insurance industry, the League of Women Voters looks at it as only a first step to health-care reform. At its national convention last June, the league reaffirmed its resolution to advocate for single-payer Medicare for all.

Under the PPACA bill, 23 million Americans will still be uninsured in 2019. Surging health-care costs will not be contained. As long as we have private insurers we will never be able to achieve truly universal or affordable care. Compared with other developed nations, the United States pays twice as much for health care and yet ranks 49th among male and female life expectancy. By replacing the inefficient patchwork of private insurers with a streamlined single-payer, our nation can save about $400 billion annually, enough to cover everyone, with no co-pays or deductibles. The House single-payer bill, HR 676, will be introduced again this month. In the 2009-10 Congress, there were 12 co-sponsors from New York, and Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, recently said that when the same bill is reintroduced, she will sign on.

Businesses cannot compete in a global market because, in this country alone, they are saddled with the burden of providing health insurance to their employees. Private for-profit health insurance does not fit the market model.

The good news is that we may not have to wait for national single payer health-care reform. Some states are moving forward on their own. In Vermont, it looks likely to happen soon. Gov. Peter Shumlin is a strong single-payer supporter and Vermont may be the first state to pass it. Vermont has just completed a study showing that nearly a quarter of the current expenditures could be saved through adoption of a single-payer plan. Both houses in California have twice passed single-payer, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new governor, Jerry Brown, has supported single-payer in the past. In Hawaii, new Gov. Neil Abercrombie is a supporter of single-payer. In New York, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, is again circulating his bill for single-payer. In Canada, Medicare for all was enacted province by province. Maybe that's what will happen in our country. It is something to hope for and work for.

The writer is president, League of Women Voters of White Plains.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20110214/OPINION/102140313/1076/OPINION01/Single-payer%20is%20still%20needed%20to%20ensure%20health%20care%20for%20all