For years, the notion of "single-payer" healthcare, also known by its more visceral-response-inducing name "socialized medicine" had been relegated to the back corners of the minds and meeting rooms of far left political groups. Over the last 15 years, however, many people (inside the United States, that is) have given it a second, less reactionary look. Earlier this year, the largest every survey of US Physicians revealed that 59% of these physicians now favor national health insurance, while only 32% oppose it. This is a far cry from the 13%-15% who supported it in the late 1980's, and represents a 10% increase over a similar study performed in 2002 (click here).
In Pennsylvania, a group called Healthcare for All Pennsylvania (http://hfap.camp7.org and www.healthcare4allpa.org) is working tirelessly to raise awareness about the benefits of the single payer solution and is committed to passing this legislation (HB 1660 / SB 300) into law. On September 18, Progressives for Pennsylvania (www.progressives4pennsylvania.com), a Lancaster, Pa, based progressive political group, is holding a single payer healthcare forum at a top tier, nationally ranked institution, Franklin and Marshall College, in Lancaster Pa. This event is being co-sponsored by myriad mainstream groups, such as the American Medical Students Association (AMSA), The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), The Pennsylvania Council of Churches, The California Nurses Association, and The League of Women Voters, among others. Having such a mainstream outlet in a very conservative geographic location speaks volumes about the broader acceptance of, if not the single payer solution in its entirety, the need for unbiased and dispassionate discussion about the issue of healthcare and healthcare industry reforms in this country.
Part of the problem surrounding single payer healthcare reform, and truly any measure of meaningful healthcare reform, is that it has become a DEEPLY entrenched and divisive partisan issue. On the surface, this seems to make sense - one side seems to be for greater government regulation to ensure a high standard of care, and one side seems to be for free market driven competition in attempt to achieve the same goal. But is that what is really at the core of the issue? I believe the answer is no. The issue is not government control vs. free market. The issue is, "how does a society's health affect its overall livelihood, and do the empirical facts and studies that are available support any alternatives, or even imply that an alternative is needed?" Here, we can strip away the Red vs. Blue, Republican vs. Democrat, Libertarian vs. Green, Rich vs. Poor, and get to the heart of the matter. This is the aim of the forum at Franklin and Marshall College. What evidence is there that our healthcare system is functioning at its highest and most efficient level? What evidence is there that Americans are as healthy as their counterparts in other countries, both with higher and lower GDP? What evidence is there that physicians and healthcare providers are able to do whats best for the patient at all times under our current system? What evidence is there that alternatives to this current system will not only work, but will outperform what is currently in place, even in a society as complex and committed to personal freedom as our own?
The time has come for a discussion on these matters - not a debate, which is simply an exercise that works to divide opinions and entrench positions - but a discussion about what we can do to help our neighbors, to help our country, and to help ourselves. We need to stop being a nation addicted to sound bites and start being a nation of thinkers. The forum on September 18 at Franklin and Marshal College in Lancaster, Pa, will allow such a platform. I encourage you to attend if possible.