'Now, move on to single-payer health care'

By Dave Zweifel
The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.), July 12, 2015

The Affordable Care Act has passed constitutional muster with the recent Supreme Court decision, and that's a good thing.

While so-called Obamacare does have its faults, it has provided health care coverage for millions of Americans who had previously gone without, and it's stopped insurance companies from cherry-picking the healthy and leaving the sick and suffering behind. Plus, it has provided incentives for hospitals, doctors and insurance companies to work together to bring down costs.

Nevertheless, it needs to be changed — but not in the way that knee-jerk Republican naysayers and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, in particular, want to change it. They'd like to repeal the law — even if they have to wait until 2017 and the inauguration of a new president. Gov. Scott Walker has vowed that, if elected president, repeal of the ACA would be a priority in his first 100 days. They'd all like to go back to a system that for decades left up to 50 million Americans without health coverage and padded the bottom lines of health care conglomerates.

No, what needs to be done in the years going forward is to make improvements in the ACA and eventually turn it into a universal single-payer health care system, which this country has needed for nearly a century.

In other words, Medicare for all.

Despite the good that has come from Obamacare, it still falls short of providing health care coverage for all Americans. Even with the exchanges, subsidies for lower-income folks, and provisions that require most people to purchase health insurance, it's estimated there will still be millions of people, perhaps 30 million, without health coverage in 2023.

Plus, there's no question that the Affordable Care Act's complexity makes it difficult for most Americans to understand exactly how it works, which, in turn, breeds the rumor and innuendo that have marked the health care debate seemingly forever.

An easy-to-understand single-payer system in which everyone participates and payments to private doctors, clinics and hospitals all come from one source can once and for all stop this nation's stubborn insistence on jury-rigging health care plans to appease one special interest after another.

The truth is that among the world's developed countries, the United States continues to stand out like a sore thumb. We not only pay about double what other countries pay for health care, but we're not as healthy as many of them. Frankly, we ought to be embarrassed as a nation.

The Physicians for a National Health Program, a national group that boasts 19,000 doctor members, insists a national single-payer system can be funded by the savings obtained by replacing today's "inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay." 

We already have the model in Medicare, the single-payer system that works for American seniors. Obamacare has sent us in the right direction. We now need to make sure we take that next step and end this needless and destructive health debate. 

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and on Twitter @DaveZweifel