Some conservatives are coming around to single-payer health coverage

By William R. Davidson Jr., M.D.
The Patriot-News (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), Letters, Dec. 23, 2013

Advocates for single-payer health care reform (also known as "Medicare-for-all") have persistently requested support from conservatives. After all, freedom to choose doctors and hospitals, as well as enormous economic savings, are consistent with conservative values. Nevertheless, conservatives have largely distanced themselves from single-payer movements.

That might be changing.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently expressed his desire to see America adopt a single-payer system. Powell's comments were similar to the sentiments heard only a few days earlier by Dr. Steven Nissen, the head of the department of cardiology at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic. When asked in an interview "What was the biggest barrier to his practice of medicine?"  Dr. Nissen stated quite succinctly: "The lack of a single payer system. We waste enormous amounts of time and energy dealing with insurance companies, whose major goal is figuring out how not to cover patients."

Powell made his comments at a meeting for survivors of prostate cancer. His own experience, as well as that of a close relative and friend, has made him acutely aware of the disparities inherent in our health care system that annually allows 50 million Americans to be uninsured, causes a half million medical bankruptcies, and tolerates spiraling, unsustainable costs. A world traveler, Powell believes all Americans should have a quality, affordable health care system "like those in Europe and Canada."

As a physician, Dr. Nissen has seen how the free market system based on the private insurance paradigm has led to incredible waste, to the point that one out of every three dollars spent on health care goes to administer it. His time and energy which should be spent on patient care and research is wasted wading through a morass of bureaucracy created by the insurance industry.

Neither gentleman directly criticizes Obamacare but, by stating they prefer single payer they are pointing out that the Affordable Care Act just won't get it done. Obamacare enlarges and enhances the influence of the private insurance industry, which has failed us for over 30 years. For many, single payer is the way.

Dr. William R. Davidson Jr. resides in Jonestown.