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Change You Can Believe in? Single-payer Appraisal of healthcare Reform

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Message Claudia Chaufan

To those led to believe that, as President Obama claimed, the passage of the health care bill is "comparable to the passage of Medicare and Social Security", and that "every American will be guaranteed high quality, affordable healthcare coverage" as a result of it, my advice is to hold off on uncorking the champagne.

For one, Social Security and Medicare were public programs that from their inception offered immediate benefits to millions of ordinary Americans, who for the first time could rely on old-age pensions and access healthcare services that until then had been completely out of reach.

But, aren't single payer advocates party spoilers, unable to recognize that the bill, even if "not perfect" is, as President Obama has asserted, a "step in the right direction" that will bring the American Dream closer to millions of suffering Americans?

The short answer is no.

As Physicians for a National Health Program has argued (disclosure: I am the vice-president of the California Chapter of this organization), there are multiple reasons to be deeply concerned about the bill, and not a shred of evidence that whatever good it may do required that Main Street pay Wall Street the bill's trillion-dollar price tag.

Yet this is precisely what it does, because this "historic bill", instead of eliminating the root of our healthcare woes, a profit-driven health insurance industry which makes money when it succeeds in not paying our medical bills, will enrich and further entrench the power of this industry.

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Claudia Chaufan, M.D., Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also a member of Physicians for a National Health Program-California (

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