Amid GOP Attacks on Health Care, the Movement for Single Payer Is Growing

By Michelle Chen
Truthout, Feb. 27, 2017

This could be the moment that the country finally comes to its senses on single payer, according to Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of the advocacy network Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).

Facing the inevitable collapse of an unsustainable system, "now there's much more...appetite for addressing the fundamentals," Himmelstein said.

One proposal for enacting single payer is simply extending and fortifying the basic infrastructure of Medicare, the centralized plan covering seniors over 65. Even Medicare in its current form is not a pure single-payer program: It suffers from its own funding gaps and contains major coverage deficits patched by semi-privatized or market-based care. (Republicans are now poised to exacerbate these gaps with post-ACA reforms that would replace it with more private, fee-based programs, which could destroy publicly subsidized care generally, endangering both Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for low-income families.)

However, as a blueprint for a workable single-payer network, the popular program could form a politically acceptable foundation for a universal health plan.

According to a recent cost analysis published by Drs. Himmelstein and Steffie Woodhandler, another PNHP co-founder, an enhanced "Medicare for all" system, which would consolidate private insurance schemes into a single, unified care network covering every patient, would save the public a total of more than $610 billion in 2017 alone, including more than $100 billion in reduced drug costs, primarily by cutting administrative waste and bloat, and integrating all services under a transparent, uniform cost structure. Patients, meanwhile, would be guaranteed lifetime coverage without insurance fees or premiums, and no risk of exclusion from coverage.

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