Sanders Puts Single-Payer On the Agenda

While the one reform that could cure what ails America's health care
system has attracted plenty of adherents in the House -- 72 members
have signed on as backers of House Judiciary Committee chair John
Conyers' single-payer proposal and others back a plan introduced by
Washington Democrat Jim McDermott's legislation -- there has not been a
Senate proposal to rally around.

Until now.

That's what makes Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' proposed
"American Health Security Act of 2009" such an important piece of
legislation. In addition to being the first single-payer bill
introduced in the Senate since the mid-1990s -- when the late Paul
Wellstone, D-Minnesota, sponsored a bill similar to the plan now being
advanced by Sanders -- it raises the profile of the doctors, nurses,
patients and other campaigners who are trying to tell the Obama
administration and its congressional allies that the legislative
compromises they entertain are doomed to fail.

Under the American Health Security Act of 2009:

* Patients could seek care from the doctor or hospital of their choice.

  • The new national health care program would be paid for by
    combining current sources of government health spending into a single
    fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay
    for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

* Funding would come from the federal government, but the program would be administered by the states.

  • The high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned
    insurance industry would be eliminated, along with the burdensome
    paperwork imposed on physicians and other providers. As a result, the
    plan would save at least $400 billion annually - enough money to
    provide comprehensive, quality care to all.
  • Community health centers would be fully funded, giving the 60
    million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to
  • To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and
    dentists, resources for the National Health Service Corps to train an
    additional 24,000 health professionals would be provided.

The Sanders bill stands in stark contrast to the proposals being
considered by the Obama administration and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus,
D-Montana, which would establish a new public-versus-private hybrid to
try and address dysfunctions in the current public-versus-private
hybrid that has left more than 45 million Americans uninsured and at
least that many Americans underinsured.

"This is excellent news," says Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program.
"There is now a way for the Senate to help us exit the nightmare of a
collapsing health care system. If this bill is enacted, we no longer
have to put up with the outrageous costs that prevent millions of
Americans from receiving medical care and medications. Nor will tens of
thousands have to declare bankruptcy over medical bills. In the face of
our present economic calamity, this is an urgent necessity."

Recalling that "President Obama once acknowledged that single-payer
national health insurance was the best way to go," Young added, "We are
confident that Senator Sanders' bill will accelerate the national drive
for the only reform that we know will work."

Let's hope the doctor's diagnosis is right.

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