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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/27/13

People Want Full Medicare for All

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Message Ralph Nader
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Source: Common Dreams

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Freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who somehow got through Princeton and Harvard Law School, is the best news the defaulting Democratic Party has had in years.

As the Texas bull in the Senate china shop, he has been making a majority of his Republican colleagues cringe with his bare-knuckle antics and language. His 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor demanding the defunding of Obamacare made his Republican colleagues cringe. His Nazi appeasement analogies and threats to shut down were especially embarrassing.

After listening to his lengthy rant on the Senate Floor on Tuesday and Wednesday, one comes away with two distinct impressions. Ted Cruz cannot resist inserting himself here, there and everywhere. And nothing is too trivial for Senator Talkathon. He likes White Castle hamburgers, he loves pancakes; he talked about what he liked to read as a little boy, where he's traveled, what clothes he wears and other trivia.

You'd think he would have used his time to talk specifically about the suffering that uninsured people and their children are going through, especially in the Lone Star State. Or about what could replace Obamacare other than his repeated "free market" solution, which is to say the "pay or die" profiteering, tax-subsidized corporate system.

It was puzzling why he never mentioned that during his two days of talking, over 200 Americans died, on average, because they couldn't afford health insurance to get diagnoses and timely treatment. (A peer reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers estimated about 45,000 die annually for lack of affordable health insurance every year.)

The other reaction to Senator Cruz was that many of his more specific objections to Obamacare -- its mind-numbing complexity, opposition by formerly supportive labor unions, and employers reacting by reducing worker hours below 30 hours a week to escape some of the law's requirements -- are well-taken and completely correctible by single-payer health insurance, as provided in Canada. Single-payer, or full Medicare for all, with free choice of physician and hospital has been the majority choice of Americans for decades. Even a majority of doctors  and nurses  favor it.

Single-payer's advantage is that everybody is in, nobody is out. It is far more efficient, allows for better outcomes, saves lives, prevents injuries and illnesses, relieves people of severe anxieties and wasted time spent figuring out often fraud-ridden, inscrutable computerized bills and allows for the collection of pattern-detecting data to spot harmful trends.

For example, in Canada, full Medicare covers everyone at half the per capita cost that Americans pay even though 50 million Americans are still not covered. The U.S. per capita figure is almost $9,000 a year and over 17% of our total GDP. In Canada, administrative costs are much lower.

Symbolically, the single-payer legislation that passed in Canada over four decades ago was 13 pages long, compared to over 2,000 pages for Obamacare.

Critics of Canada's system charge it with delays for patients. For some elective procedures, provinces that were under-investing have experienced some delays until Ottawa raised its contributions. Canada spends just over 10% of its GDP on healthcare, by comparison.

But in the U.S. not being able to pay for treatment is the biggest problem. And in the U.S., who hasn't heard of delays in various areas of the country due to lack of primary care physicians or other specialties? I have many friends and relatives in Canada who have not complained of delays for routine, essential or emergency treatments.

For those who prefer to believe hard-bitten businesspeople, Matt Miller, writing yesterday in The Washington Post, interviewed big business executives -- David Beatty who ran the giant Weston Foods and Roger Martin long-time consultant to large U.S. companies in Canada. They were highly approving of the Canadian system and are baffled at the way the U.S. has twisted itself in such a wasteful, harmful and discriminatory system.

Mr. Beatty wondered why U.S. companies "'want to be in the business of providing health care anyway' ("that's a government function,' he says simply)."

Mr. Martin, an avowed capitalist, who has experienced healthcare in the U.S. and Canada, according to Mr. Miller, called Canadian Medicare "incredibly hassle-free," by comparison. (In Canada, single-payer means government insurance and private delivery of healthcare under cost controls). Now Dean of the business school at the University of Toronto, Mr. Martin told reporter Miller: "I literally have a hard time thinking of what would be better than a single-payer system."

So why the U.S. is the only Western country without some version of a single-payer system?

Most concessionary Democrats, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have said in the past that they prefer single-payer, but that the corporate forces against it cannot be overcome. (They use phrases like "single-payer is not practical.")

But with the Cruz crew in Congress going berserk against Obamacare, now is the time to press again for the far superior single-payer model. Or at least get single-payer into the public discussion. Unfortunately, even some of the major citizen groups organized for single-payer, behind H.R. 676, are keeping quiet, not wanting to undercut Obama and the Congressional Democrats.

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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.
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