Despite how favorable a single-payer health care system would be to the vast majority of Americans, an estimated 62 percent of voters nationwide are not in favor of such a system, according to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Other countries — Canada, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark and Switzerland — already have this system.
A single-payer system has a central agency collect tax funds from the public, which in turn is pooled into a central fund where hospitals, doctors and other health care providers collect their fees. This effectively eliminates much of the excessive profits some health care and insurance providers rack up, raising the cost of health care across the board.
According to U.S. Census figures from 2008, 15.4 percent of the U.S. population, is uninsured. Beyond obvious humanitarian factors, lacking preventive care may lead to increased emergency visits, chronic hospitalization and increased medical expenses for many preventable conditions.
Last month, a revolutionary amendment to the health care reform bill was defeated. The Sanders Amendment attempted — for the first time in American history — to establish a single-payer health care system, but was abandoned after Republicans demanded that the clerk of the Senate read the 767-page bill aloud, according to The Associated Press.
“This amendment starts from the premise that health care is a human right, and that every citizen, rich or poor, should have access to health care, just as every citizen has access to the fire department, the police or public schools,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a statement.
The health care legislation is admirable, as it prevents the insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, among other things, but it still lacks the establishment of a single-payer system.
Instead, the legislation requires all Americans to have insurance and offers subsidies to middle- and low-income families to assist in its affordability, while calling for the creation of an insurance exchange that allows companies and individuals to compare insurance plans.
Misconceptions about a single-payer system may explain its lack of support. The ideological term “socialist” is often attached, with resulting implications that the entire health care industry would be owned and operated by the government. This is not true.
When asked whether health care in Taiwan was socialized, Harvard School of Public Health professor William Hsiao said to Frontline: “Taiwan does not have socialized medicine in any sense of the word. First of all, the doctors are private practices. Most of the hospitals are privately owned. They compete with each other. People have a choice of their doctors, hospitals. They have more choice than Americans. In no sense is it a socialized system.”
When asked if his country’s health care is socialized and owned by the government, President Pascal Couchepin of Switzerland said: “No, it is not considered as socialized medicine … The doctors are paid by the mandatory health insurance system, so it is not quite a free market.”
“On the other side, there is a kind of competition between the health insurance companies between the hospitals. So it is probably not a socialized system, but it is a step further into the direction than the American system … I don’t think it is a free-market system 100 percent — by at least, let us say, 70 percent.”
The free market principles that many Americans hold dear are not disregarded. Doctors and hospitals would still be offered important financial incentives.
For many, there are limited numbers of doctors that will accept their insurance. Many treatments are not covered at all and separate health plans for dentistry and vision are often required.
Meanwhile, Americans pay expensive premiums all year, only to face expensive co-payments that discourage seeking early treatment.
The rest of the world is getting it. American industries are bogged down by health care costs that their rivals overseas don’t have to incur.
The loss of a job, and therefore insurance, can be financially ruining when medical needs arise, leading to hospital bills piling up, harassing bill collectors and the realization that we as Americans are willing to look the other way as our friends, neighbors and family meet this cold fate. We should no longer be willing to take this risk and must only accept a single-payer based system.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.