If Obamacare Fails, Can We Bring Back Single-Payer Health Care?


Written by Suzanne Lindgren

It’s been a while since Obama’s proposal for universal health care was replaced by a compromise known as the Affordable Care Act. Despite detractors from the right and left, Obamacare’s sell–that the Act would give millions of uninsured Americans coverage–appeased many. But now, as we wait to hear the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, some have begun to whisper of a second chance for a single-payer system.

If the Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate unconstitutional, single-payer will almost certainly be back on the table, writes Yes! Magazine’s Sarah van Gelder (citing Labor Secretary Robert Reich and columnist Rick Ungar of Forbes Magazine). Van Gelder argues that single-payer is what Americans want. “In poll after poll, a majority of Americans have expressed support for single-payer health care or national health insurance.”

This may be the chance to get it, but proponents will have to make their voices heard. “[I]t would be a long and difficult process,” reasons Arnold Relman in The American Prospect, “that would be bitterly opposed by the private insurance industry and its friends […] Nevertheless, there are reasons I believe this transformation has at least a chance of becoming reality.” With an informed, engaged public and strong support from doctors, Relman writes, single-payer advocates stand a fighting chance to win the attention of legislators and outweigh the influence of lobbyists.

The stakes may be higher than ever, since a single-payer system would save Americans $570 billion, reports economist Gerald Friedman in Dollars & Sense. Though a single-payer system “would raise some costs by providing access to care for those currently uninsured or under-insured, it would save much larger sums by eliminating insurance middlemen and radically simplifying payment to doctors and hospitals. While providing superior health care, a single-payer system would save as much as $570 billion now wasted on administrative overhead and monopoly profits.” In the midst of a recession, with great need to invest in renewable energy sources, education, sustainable transportation, and local food systems, Americans may have a chance to do more with their money than line the pockets of insurance company shareholders.

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


Related Stories:

The Savage Arithmetic of the Pre-existing Condition

When Did America Give Up?

Team Obama Finally Embraces ‘Obamacare’


Photo from Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons


Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thank you. Very interesting.

Laurie B.
Laurie Bobskill4 years ago

Sad thing is, any true discussion anyone attempted on this forum, or any strategizing, any planning, would be spied on by industry shills.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Don, sorry I cannot send you another green star so...* ... there's a substitute. A star to Laurie also.
Does anyone else fing it strange that "Carlos" has suddenly fallen off the face of the earth? Is it because he cannot directly answer the direct & pointed questions I posed? Good riddance.
He worked a "little while" as opposed to 40 yrs.
The sad thing is, currently these lobbyists are paying off our politicians here who are purposely spreading misinformation & cutting back on health funding in Canada in an attempt to destroy & defame our system & create an excuse for privatization to put a wedge into our system. Crooked, paid off politicians in Canada too??? Oh, god forbid. Those big insurance dudes are rubbing their hands with glee hoping to get another 35 million plus suckers to bleed dry. They ought to be strung up from the highest tree for crimes against humanity since they want to deprive people of decent health care, which in my opinion is a right, not a privilege, you know, "life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness". The sick and dying are not free, or happy nor do they live long. Humanity has been replaced by the almighty dollar. Shameful! They are greedy criminals, nothing less.

Don H.
Don H.4 years ago

As you can see, dear readers, there has been an influx of misinformation peddlers commenting on this article. Many of these people are paid by the insurance industry to lie to you and twist the facts.

U.S. health insurance companies do not contribute anything to health care. They are only a PARASITIC middle man taking a cut of "FREE MONEY".

Western European health care systems are far cheaper than the U.S. model. And they are more effective. The French health care system is the most expensive yet it comes in at less than 2/3s of the cost of that of the U.S.

The reason for this is profit. In the U.S. everyone along the line takes a profit cut. The health care service providers have to make a profit just as the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies.

This costs all of us. For one thing care is rationed to preserve profits for the insurance industry. And care is denied by the insurance industry.

This is why we desperately needed a strong public option in the new health care legislation. We needed a public option that could evolve into a system that did not include a parasitic insurance industry or a for-profit health care services providers.

Don H.
Don H.4 years ago

Carlos, David Gratzer is a right wing spokesman for the private insurance industry, just as you are.

We have a private system in the U.S., we already know how bad it is.

You keep telling us how expensive single payer universal systems are but the facts do not bear this out.

Laurie B.
Laurie Bobskill4 years ago

Linda, some economists do get it. This is Paul Krugman, writing in The New York Times March 16:

"The budgetary cost per newly insured resident of Massachusetts was actually lower than the projected cost per American insured by the Affordable Care Act.
''Given this evidence, what’s a virulent opponent of reform to do? The answer is, make stuff up....
"For now... most of the disinformation involves claims about costs. Each new report from the Congressional Budget Office is touted as proof that the true cost of Obamacare is exploding, even when — as was the case with the latest report — the document says on its very first page that projected costs have actually fallen slightly. Nor are we talking about random pundits making these false claims. We are, instead, talking about people like the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, who issued a completely fraudulent press release after the latest budget office report.
"Because the truth does not, sad to say, always prevail, there is a real chance that these lies will succeed in killing health reform before it really gets started. And that would be an immense tragedy for America, because this health reform is coming just in time.
"The reform is mainly aimed at Americans who fall through the cracks in our current system — an important goal in its own right. But what makes reform truly urgent is the fact that the cracks are rapidly getting wider, because fewer and fewer jobs come with health bene

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Well, well, well. Just looked up Gratzer. A physician and economist. Also US connections out his whazoo. Coming from a wealthy family with no sympathy for the less fortunate. Opposed the increase in the minimum wage because it harmed the poor. Obviously he has never worked on minimum wage. Also wants to increase eligibility for medicare to 70. Sure, let that old labourer with a bad back keep dragging his lunch box off to work. How about 80? Maybe 90? I suppose a desk jockey like him could work that long but he doesn't have to does he? As an economist, his prime objective is money making & he's a staunch conservative. Let's see, would he be in favour of the little guy? Sounds like good lobbyist material to me.
I rest my case.
Meanwhile Carlos, answer my questions one by one.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Carlos, you failed to address why such a difference in costs of procedures. Why is this of economical benefit except for insurance cos? How do exhorbitantly expensive procedures benefit Joe Public? Why does the US spend more per capita & yet leave so many uninsured or undertreated? Why did you not address the fact that small private employers in Canada do not pay for health benefits but rather individual income taxes cover everyone? Could this not be part of the plan in the US? Works here! Why is US health care rated 37th (?39th) among nations if IT is so great? Why did you not respond to the fund raiser issue I mentioned? We don't need them in Canada but you do! As for Clinton & Obama, they don't want single payer because their income from Mr. Big Insurance would disappear. None of the politicians cares about you. I answered your questions. Answer mine. No BS & dancing around with other BS. Answer EVERY one in sequence.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Carlos, I worked in ER the last 20 years & have never had anyone,elderly or otherwise,5 days in the ER.We have had "holding patients" who will be short term admissions of a day or two or some may wait for a day or two until a discharge opens up a bed BUT these people have their own nurse & own room and are treated exactly the same as they would be on a regular floor.This situation occurs particularly during such things as flu epidemics when services are overloaded.
As far as Grazer,never hard of him but I suspect he is an insurance co plant, a paid lobbyist trying to make way for the greedy bastard insurance companies who have been trying to destroy our system ever since it was instituted (& even before).You know, like those guys paid by the oil companies saying the Gulf is absolutely clean as a whistle since the BP spill, yeah right. Where money is to be made there are lies to be told & propaganda to be spread.Medical care is NOT rationed.Canadians are NOT looking to the market.There,I commented.Lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists.
Tommy Douglas was the founder of Universal care in Canada & in a recent poll was voted most loved Canadian in history.That's a major clue.I would bet 90+% of us would fight to keep it.
I'm sure 90+% of Canadians would fight like hell to keep our system intact. In a democracy, majority rules. Our system is NOT!!!!! perfect, never said it was but people don't lose their homes, get big bills, are not uninsured and I have first hand

Laurie B.
Laurie Bobskill4 years ago

Oho--an industry number-cruncher. Delete.