A single-payer system
gives health care to all
The question that has recently been amplified by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as to whether we all have a right to health care — just as we do to police and fire protection and other government services — is more prominent once again given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The massive unemployment occurring in the private sector has clearly disabled access to health care support for a large segment of our population, particularly those dependent on employer-supported health care insurance. This unexpected turn of events might well have some influence upon upcoming decisions at the ballot box, as everyone’s access to affordable health care again is emerging as a major issue.
Earlier, the argument made in favor of a single-payer health system that provides coverage for everyone (as seen in all other developed countries) hinged upon: (1) The total access to care it allowed and (2) The claim that the overall cost of health care would be reduced. This cost reduction would be accomplished through negotiations to reduce overcharges, a process that lacks feasibility within the multiple-payer system we now have but is an inherent advantage of a single-payer system.
Previously, the arguments voiced against transitioning to a single-payer health care plan cited the current “satisfaction” of some with employer-provided insurance along with the concern that what some perceive to be a socialist approach to health care. With current unemployment numbers similar to or exceeding those of the Great Depression, many nongovernment workers now lack access in our overcharging market. A national shift to a single-payer system would not solve all the problems associated with the recent economic downturn, but it would assure access to needed health care for all of us.
Walter Lawrence Jr., M.D.