Single-payer is the cure

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EDITORIAL We're sorry to see all the problems surrounding President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which has made some important improvements to the country's healthcare system, such as helping those with preexisting conditions get coverage and preventing those who do have coverage from being arbitrarily dropped. Given a break from being exploited by the insurance industry, there's no way this country's citizens will want to go back to how things were.

But the convoluted Obamacare system was a foreseeable mess, one that is now causing unnecessary anxiety across the country and bringing right-wing extremists back from the political dead as the mid-term elections approach. Republicans may not be correct when they trumpet the old system as the best on the world, but their criticisms of Obamacare are already finding increasing resonance, and we haven't even gotten to the point yet where it will be illegal not to have health insurance.

It doesn't make sense to leave something as important as our healthcare system in the hands of for-profit corporations with the incentive to drive up costs. The New York Times has done some excellent work this year showing how US residents pay astronomically more for every procedure and drug than citizens of other countries. We should have all been suspicious when the insurance industry cooperated with enacting Obamacare and helped preclude a public option, leaving us with the insurance exchanges that have been so problematic.

There's really only one remedy to this country's ailing healthcare system, which we said at the time that Obamacare was being passed and we'll repeat again now that there's even more evidence supporting our position: We need socialized medicine in this country.

Conservatives who read that assertion are probably shaking their heads in disbelief right now, believing that Obamacare's shortcomings prove that government can't run a healthcare system. And the inexcusable technical problems with the federal healthcare.gov website and its related state exchanges unfortunately reinforce that view. But they're wrong, and the single-payer advocates have been right all along, noting among other things that the government runs Medicare well and with far lower overhead than insurance companies.

The problems with Obamacare are similar to the problems it sought to address, and they stem from the fact that an insurance-based model is a terrible way to run a healthcare system. It's too expensive and does too little to hold down medical costs, it's confusing and stressful to people who are already wrestling with disease or injury, and it unjustly creates different standards of care for the rich and poor.

Socialized medicine — or a single-payer system, administered by either government or a private contractor, but paid for automatically through our taxes — works well in just about every other industrialized country, most of which are far less expensive and yet have better healthcare outcomes. A single-payer system could utilize the existing healthcare infrastructure, it would simply change how we pay for it and bring much-needed price controls and regulatory oversight.

Think about it: Healthcare coverage is something that every citizen needs in equal measure. We all need the right to see a doctor when we're sick or injured. None of us should have to gamble with our health by weighing the cost of various monthly insurance premiums against our likelihood of ending up in the hospital. And it really shouldn't be up to struggling small businesses to pay expensive health insurance premiums for their employees, even though that's really the only way to make the fatally flawed insurance model work.

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