By David Rosman
Missourian (Columbia, Mo.), Sept. 23, 2015
I am a fan of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Not just because of his progressive and sometimes socialist political stance, but that he is promoting a single-payer system of health care in the United States. Unfortunately, Sanders does not say how he is going to get there from the orb known as Obamacare.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, nearly one in six, or 16.2 percent, of Americans were without health insurance in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Today that number sits at about 10.4 percent because of Obamacare. That is about 9 million people; significant no matter how one tries to tweak the numbers.
Sanders cites the Scandinavian countries with having the healthiest people on the planet because of their single-payer plans. Even our Canadian friends deal with a single-payer plan that still allows for private insurance. In fact, there are a lot of variations of the “plan” available to the U.S. market.
My family has experienced the single-payer systems twice. While on a trip to Canada a number of years back, I had a tooth abscess erupt, causing great pain. I went to a local dentist in Montreal who agreed to see me as an emergency patient and did some quick surgery to relieve the pain and clear the abscess. When I asked how much the procedure would cost, he told me that the Canadian system would pay for the procedure because it was medically necessary.
My stepmother had a similar experience in Italy. She took a tumble down some stairs and severely bruised her leg. She was taken to the hospital while my dad tried to determine if his insurance plan would cover the expenses. He was told that the costs were covered under the Italian plan and he would not owe one lira or euro.
All in all, the VA system, Medicare and Medicaid are single-payer plans that are working.
Yes, you will read about the problems the VA has had over the years, but these problems seem to be focused on a few incidents. You read about the abuse of a few caretakers and end users of Medicaid and Medicare, but these, again, are few and far between. Like airplane accidents, they would not make the news as often if they were not prominent.
My father received excellent care during his later years from the VA and Medicare. In fact, he could not praise the VA enough and supported a universal single-payer plan despite his otherwise conservative leanings.
It is a shame that Missouri’s legislators will not seek to help the economically challenged in the state by passing an expansion of Medicaid to all uninsured Missourians. But this goes along with the GOP’s continued attacks on the middle- and lower-economics classes in the state.
The problem is that the GOP has raised the “no new taxes” mantra loud and long enough that they believe their own rhetoric. Yet the originator of the phrase, then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, could not hold on to his promise and the economy did not suffer. There are some of us that would be willing to pay a bit more in taxes if we were guaranteed health coverage for the rest of our lives.
Most of the “193,000 uninsured adults” (23 percent of the uninsured) in Missouri are part of the “working poor” making between $10 and $16 an hour (for a family of four) who do not qualify for the ACA or MO HealthNet. As I have written before, these are not people who are milking the system but hardworking men and women. In fact, it is a small percentage of “bad apples” that are spoiling the entire barrel.
Am I backing Sanders as a presidential candidate among the plethora of candidates from both sides of the aisle? Not quite yet, but I am getting there. I am still waiting for specifics as to how he will change the health insurance system while fighting the GOP super-conservatives and insurance companies.
David Rosman is an editor, writer and professional speaker. You can read more of his commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.