Still working toward health care for all

By the Editorial Board
The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Oct. 6, 2014

A Republican hospital consultant and university teacher wrote a Sunday Gazette-Mail analysis saying President Obama’s Affordable Care Act has reduced the number of Americans without medical insurance from 18 percent to 13 percent, so far.

That’s great — but those figures would be laughable in Canada, England or other advanced democracies where the share of uninsured citizens is zero.

Most modern nations regard health care as a human right for everyone. Eventually, we hope, America finally will join other civilized places with a complete safety net.

Many studies have reported that the United States has the world’s most expensive medical care — but an inferior level of health. Life expectancy and infant mortality are worse in America than in most advanced countries.

We think a Canada-style, government-run, “single payer” system is best, because it covers all and has power to reduce costs. It wipes out the expensive overhead of for-profit insurance firms that seek technicalities to duck medical bills.

“Per-capita, we spent $8,508 for health care in 2011,” the Republican medical expert wrote. “Canada came in at $4,522. The average … developed nation spent only $3,339 per-capita.”

Calling Canada’s plan Medicare-for-all, he added: “With our fragmented system, we spend 17.7 percent of our GDP on health care. … Australia, for instance, spends just 8.9 percent.”

If other nations are smart enough to provide care for everyone at greatly reduced cost, America’s leaders should be intelligent enough to do likewise.

Ever since presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, Washington has dreamed of universal coverage. President Obama won a bold step in that direction. But conservatives resisted, again and again.

Someday, we hope — if Democrats gain enough seats in Congress — America will join the intelligent, compassionate countries that make health care a human right for all.