By Harvey Fernbach, M.D.

“I just enrolled in Medicare. It took me 5 minutes. Single payer anyone?”
— John Podesta, Twitter, Nov. 14, 2013

The delays, glitches, complexity and time involved in enrolling in Obamacare is in sharp contrast to a America’s largest and premiere government financed and privately delivered health insurance program — Medicare.

With a reliable track record since 1965, Medicare quietly enrolled over 1.8 million people in 2012 — that’s over 150,000 per month, nearly 5,000 per day.

Medicare enrollment has been increasing as the American population ages.

From the 2012 numbers, Medicare enrolled at least 225,000 in the six weeks since ACA’s health exchanges went live on Oct. 1.

That is more than twice as many as those who enrolled in private insurance through the exchanges, as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported this week.

Enrolling all U.S. residents in Medicare — and expanding its benefits as proposed by the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” a bill in Congress (HR 676) — would be relatively simple.

Polls report that a majority of people want the kind of program H.R. 676 offers: lifelong comprehensive coverage for outpatient visits, inpatient care, laboratory tests, dental care, mental health services and more (all necessary care).

The idea that people “like their health insurance” is a myth. People want health care, not insurance policies.

An improved Medicare for All would eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars now wasted on insurance company, hospital and clinic overhead. Those billions would be redirected to delivering actual care. It would also be much more effective in controlling rising health costs, using its bargaining clout to negotiate lower prices for drugs and other medical supplies.

Medicare for All would be much easier to administer nationally, would be accessed individually by patients, eliminate hassle for providers as well as employers.

Numerous economic studies comparing this approach to the current health care plan in America demonstrate huge saving and economical advantages for the nation.

No wonder John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Clinton and founder of the Center for American Progress, joyfully tweeted: “I just enrolled in Medicare. It took me 5  minutes. Single payer anyone?”

The answer is a resounding, emphatic, loud “Yes!” We need single payer for the health of everyone!”

Harvey Fernbach, M.D., M.P.H., is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program. He resides in Bethesda, Md.