Opinion

Americans should fight for a national health care solution

Health care. Everyone is talking about it. Legislation resulting from Congress’s efforts to repair our broken health care system will affect our quality of life for generations.

Given the immediacy and importance of this issue, a group of concerned activists has recently formed on Vashon to advocate for a specific solution. We are Single-Payer Vashon. Our group unites people from multiple political parties.

Single-payer is a funding mechanism only, an approach that’s been compared to Medicare for the way it provides universal health care and pays for health care costs from a single source; it does not restrict who you can see or where you can go for medical needs. We support a single-payer system because:

• Our tax dollars should go for health care, not profits.

• Single-payer saves taxpayers the most — an estimated 31 cents of every health dollar.

• Single-payer can prevent 60 percent of family bankruptcies, according to some analyses.

• Businesses are having difficulty offering adequate medical coverage.

• Only a single-payer system can afford to cover all citizens.

• Only single-payer lets patients choose any licensed practitioner.

• Only single-payer can afford to cover all medically necessary treatments.

A major contributor to the high costs of health care in this country is the overhead for the administration of private health insurance.

The organization Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) states that private insurers “waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.”

By contrast, Medicare, a single-payer program for seniors, operates with 3 percent overhead.

What about the “public option” plan promoted by President Obama?

Under that proposal, all private insurance plans and their overhead remain, with few cost savings.

PNHP has stated that even if 95 percent of Americans who are now privately insured joined a public plan, savings on insurance overhead would amount to only 16 percent of the roughly $400 billion annually achievable through single-payer. That’s not enough to make reform affordable. Single-payer saves the most because it requires “everybody in / nobody out.”

Why has single-payer been taken off the table by our political leaders? I often hear the opinion from so-called political realists that single-payer is best but is not politically viable, and we must therefore choose the next best thing — a public option plan that leaves private, for-profit insurance companies competing with a public plan.

In 2008, hospitals, insurance companies, HMOs and pharmaceutical manufacturers spent $472 million on lobbying-related expenses and $97 million on campaign contributions.

Is it any wonder that Congress has not even discussed single-payer and has refused to listen to those who are asking that it be included in the discussion? The for-profit health care system is terrified of single-payer, and most members of Congress kowtow to its large campaign contributors.

Recent polling, however, shows that most U.S. citizens and most U.S. physicians support single-payer.

Dr. David Scheiner, Obama’s physician for 20 years, says that the best plan would be “Medicare for all.”

Health care industry lobbyists are relentlessly pushing for a private-only system, and Congress is succumbing to them. President Obama recently said he would abandon the public option if it does not have Congressional support. To defeat the lobbyists and get Congress on our side (remember, they are supposed to represent us), we must push in the other direction. We may not get what we demand, but we will certainly get a better deal.

So, fight. Fight for what you really want. You are not alone. If you keep asking for a whole loaf of bread, you are more likely to get a whole loaf than if you begin with asking for half a loaf.

Single-Payer Vashon’s first action will be to march in the Strawberry Festival parade. We will have puppetry, street theater, signs, handouts, and folks to answer your questions about health care. Look for us and come talk to us.

The future of health care is in your hands, and voice. As progressive radio talk show host Thom Hartmann says, “Tag…you’re it!”

— Roger Fulton, an Islander for 19 years, is a founding member of Single-Payer Vashon. He also advocates actively for public

campaign financing.

Join the fight

For more information about advocating for Single-Payer, visit www.

healthcareforallwa.org and www.unitedforsinglepayer.org. Single-Payer Action Teams are active throughout the Seattle area, and one is being formed for West Seattle / Vashon. Contact Roger Fulton for more information at 463-0079 or roger@personaltechaid.com.

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