Image by freestylee via FlickrPublished on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Single Payer Solution for Obama
by MN Senator John Marty
"If anyone...has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."
-- President Obama, State of the Union
January 27, 2010
An open letter in response to President Obama's State of the Union request for a better approach to health care reform:
Dear President Obama,
During your State of the Union address, you explained why you are fighting for health care reform, expressed frustration at the lack of success, and invited others to suggest a better approach.
I'm taking you up on that invitation and offer a bold suggestion:
Take a look at our Minnesota Health Plan -- a proposal that covers everyone, saves money, and creates a logical health care system to replace the dysfunctional non-system which currently exists. It is a proposal that would provide health care to everyone, not merely health insurance for many. Our MN Health Plan (mnhealthplan.org) could be readily adapted as a nation-wide plan. It would meet each of the five requirements you mentioned in your State of the Union request:
Bring Down Premiums. Most Americans would see a big reduction in premiums because the plan would be significantly cheaper than our current health care non-system. Because the premiums for the MHP would be based on ability to pay, everyone's premiums would be affordable. Some would pay more, but overall, costs would go down. Most people would save money, while getting the care they need and deserve. The total costs for the plan would be less than we now are paying for premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and taxes for medical programs.
Bring Down the Deficit. By keeping people healthier and by delivering quality health care efficiently, it would save hundreds of billions of dollars for the federal government, and even more for states. For example, by covering chemical dependency treatment and providing comprehensive mental health services, it would cut crime and human service costs (such as out-of-home placement of children), some of the biggest and fastest growing expenses facing state and local governments.
Cover the Uninsured. It would cover the uninsured and the under-insured. In fact it would cover everyone -- 100% of the public.
Strengthen Medicare for Seniors (and everyone else). It would cover prescription drugs -- with no "doughnut hole." It would cover long term care, in-home care, dental, eye care, physical therapy, and medical supplies -- it would cover all medical needs. And, they would have their choice of doctor, hospital, clinic, dentist -- complete freedom to choose their medical providers.
Stop Insurance Company Abuses. There would be no "pre-existing conditions" to worry about, no underwriting, no denials of coverage, no "out of network" problems. I like to use the analogy of police and fire protection. When you return home to find a burglary in process and call 911, the police dispatcher does not ask if you qualify. They do not ask if you have police insurance. They do not ask whether your policy covers home burglary. They don't ask if you have pre-existing conditions that would disqualify you. They don't waste time and money having you fill out forms so your insurance company can be billed. The police response does not depend on your insurance status. Everyone is treated equally. It's the American way. It is time to treat health care the same way.
As a 23 year member of the Minnesota Senate, let me comment briefly on the politics of this proposal:
The MHP is a single payer proposal. You have acknowledged that single payer is the only way to cover everyone. Seven years ago you said that single payer health care is "what I'd like to see. But... we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House." Now that we have taken back the White House and the Congress, it is time to act.
I recognize, as you do, that you do not have the votes to pass truly universal health care at this time. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries contribute so much to members of Congress -- they control the debate -- so health care for everyone isn't even on the table.
This, however, is your opportunity for leadership. If you propose and fight for health care for all, as FDR did with Social Security in 1935, the voters would respond. If you don't win this year, ask the American people to elect candidates who will stand with you. Make it the issue of the campaign: Health Care for All vs. Health Insurance for Some. Instead of losing Democratic members of Congress this year -- as Massachusetts illustrates -- you would gain votes and could actually pass the bill next year.
Dr. Martin Luther King stated, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
Almost a half century later, we still have not addressed the injustice in health care that Dr. King described as the most inhumane. Ignoring this injustice is immoral and it is economically unsustainable. People are hurting, some are literally dying, businesses are folding, and it is crushing our national economy.
Please, restore the Hope that you raised in all of us, bring back the inspiration that made the American people so excited by your inauguration. I urge you to step back, reconsider, introduce a health care plan that is truly universal, and fight for it.
Justice requires no less.
John Marty is a state Senator from Minnesota, who is currently a Democratic candidate for governor. John currently chairs the Minnesota Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee. He is author of the Minnesota Health Plan, a bold single-payer health plan that would cover all Minnesotans for all their medical needs, including mental health and chemical dependency. He has been successful in gaining the support of one-third of the state's legislature as co-authors.