Thomas Friedman endorses single payer

Up With Extremism

By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times, January 6, 2016

It’s time for a true nonpartisan extremist, one whose platform combines the following:

*  A single-payer universal health care system. If it can work for Canada, Australia and Sweden and provide generally better health outcomes at lower prices, it can work for us, and get U.S. companies out of the health care business.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

In his opinion piece, Thomas Friedman calls for electing a nonpartisan extremist for president. The first in his recommended list of extremist policy positions is a single payer universal health care system. Great!

The significance of this is that the debate over health care reform is not limited to tweaking the irreparable deficiencies of the Affordable Care Act (Democrats) versus paring back the government role in health care by shifting more of the financial responsibility to patients (Republicans). Although single payer was rejected during the campaign that led to the election of President Obama, it is now clear that Obamacare has perpetuated a wasteful, inefficient system that is increasing financial burdens and further impairing access for patients, even if greater numbers are nominally insured. And the tentative Republican proposals would make affordability and access even worse.

There is now a much broader understanding that single payer would provide the infrastructure that would ensure affordable care for everyone. The spark which has injected this into the presidential campaign is the strong endorsement by Bernie Sanders along with a token acknowledgement by the poll-leading Republican candidate - Donald Trump. We are seeing more single payer endorsements along with limited press coverage confirming that single payer is in play in this election. We should continue our efforts to amplify that. Low odds admittedly, but it’s there.

Just a note on Friedman’s article. He calls for “a nonpartisan extremist for president who’s ready to go far left and far right — simultaneously.” His list of policy recommendations includes some that are simply not acceptable in an enlightened society (mind you, I’m a pacifist). So we should make it clear that, though we are quite pleased with Friedman’s endorsement of single payer, we cannot reciprocate with an endorsement of several of his other policy positions.