Single Payer Isn’t Socialist, It Just Doesn’t Make Cents

By Liz Newbury, NOW Web Coordinator

Health care reform is the focus this week, and for good reason — millions of Americans are without health care coverage. And right now, those millions of Americans are holding their breath as Congress hashes out the details of the reform bill, hoping beyond hope that what comes out of the Capital is not just a quick-fix solution but a long-term solution. You can read more about the official position of the National Organization for Women in the press release here.

There is nothing that affects women more directly than health care reform. I know, especially since I have been among the members of staff who have read some of the health care stories coming in from activists just like you. Several hundreds of you have found the time to write to us here at the National NOW action center to tell us how health care coverage has affected you, sometimes at great personal cost.

Many of these stories are so horrific that they have brought me to tears — daughters dying because they couldn’t get health care coverage for breast cancer, the struggles of having to deal with insurance companies denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and women having to chose between food on the table and seeing a doctor. This isn’t even covering the disparity of coverage between women’s physicals (pap smears are frivolous, right?) and men’s physicals, or the lack of coverage birth control. We could compile a whole encyclopedia on the many ways women are denied access to reproductive health care.

Health care is a human right. Nobody should be in these situations; not in this country, not anywhere.

The long and the short of it is that we don’t need reform, we need a rehaul of the health care system. This isn’t news to NOW, either — since 1993, the National Organization for Women has been a leader in single payer health care reform.

While perhaps better than nothing, the public option proposed now would only contribute to the patchwork health care system we currently have. The public option is just that — another option. There is no guarantee that you would be in the system because you would still have to buy in — although it would certainly make health care more affordable for many thousands of people.

Single payer wouldn’t have the same sort of competition between a public option and a private option for health care. Everyone gets health care. Period.

With single payer, there is no picking between those who are healthy and those who are not. There is none of this “let’s make the people who need health care the most” bear the burden of the system, because everyone shares the burden because taxes would be paying for the system. Choice isn’t gone, because you would still have the choice of what doctors and providers to use. There is even potential to not only lower the cost of health care on an individual basis (for example, lower cost of prescription medicine), but also lower the cost of health care nationwide. The point is this — everyone gets health care.

If you would like to learn more about single payer and the public option, California NOW posted a great list of resources a little while ago. Why doesn’t single payer get more support? One reason is that the people who want it the most don’t have the same sort of money to lobby Congress that the folks who want single payer dead and buried have. The cynic in me would point out that there’s just more profit to be had (at least, from private companies) if you don’t make health care easy, accessible, and universal. It’s great to make a patient pay for the entire chemotherapy bill, or to make women pay $50 for a pack of monthly birth control that costs the pharmacy $5 (assuming it’s even covered) — because that way, someone is making money. Isn’t it considered socialist to think that everyone should have health care, because where’s the profit? Yeah, right.

Health care shouldn’t be about making a dime, it should be about social justice. It should be about equal access, preventative treatment, and having a healthy nation. It should be a human right.

Unfortunately, it is going to take time, energy, and muscle to force this sort of change on our broken system. But we need this sort of change. We need to continue to be leaders for women everywhere, and continue the fight for single payer health care reform.

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