Obama on Single-Payer


I think the health care bill the President is moving forward with is an excellent one, but I did find these remarks yesterday about single-payer health insurance somewhat annoying:

On one end of the spectrum, there are some who’ve suggested scrapping our system of private insurance and replacing it with a government-run health care system. And though many other countries have such a system, in America it would be neither practical nor realistic.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those, and this includes most Republicans in Congress, who believe the answer is to loosen regulations on the insurance industry — whether it’s state consumer protections or minimum standards for the kind of insurance they can sell. The argument is, is that that will somehow lower costs. I disagree with that approach. I’m concerned that this would only give the insurance industry even freer rein to raise premiums and deny care.

So first off, I get it, politics is politics blah blah I understand.

That said, the positive equivalence between single-payer advocates and deregulation advocates rankles. What’s more, the issue here is government-run health insurance not total government control of health care. On top of that, would it really have killed the President to do a little public education and note that it’s not just “many other countries” that have such a system—American senior citizens have it too. Medicare for All is clearly not “practical” as a legislative matter, but a big part of the reason that it’s not practical is that high-profile political figures have spent the past 20 years letting the right evade the arguments. If government-run health insurance is good enough for retirees (and NHS-style government-run health care is good enough for veterans) then why isn’t it good enough for everyone else?

And is it really impractical? Sure, you couldn’t sweep the whole current system away overnight, but transition via Obamacare + a robust public option is very practical. That’s why Barack Obama endorsed it as a candidate.