Single payer health care in America and why it isn't Socialism

Is America finally ready for single payer health care? Photo: Doctor with young patient

SANTA CRUZ, June 17, 2013 — Americans love to beat their chests about their country’s greatness. Many are crassly liberal in their self-congratulation for vague, amorphous ideas such as freedom, democracy and liberty.

To hear an American talk, one might believe that person single-handedly invented these broad, ideological tentpoles. It would be wrong to deny the daring vision of the American experiment, wrought with immediate risks and unforeseen pitfalls. The early adoption of a set of laws and practices which, while rooted in the commonwealth, had the distinct flavor of the new and vastly undiscovered lands they were formed to govern. 


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Freedom and liberty are well and good. They poll well and look slick on banners and placards but what tangible benefits have they brought to the average American, the working poor or the middle class? Americans are free to consume all manner of things: food, culture, entertainment, alcohol and tobacco to their heart’s content.

Are these liberties we are so fond of celebrating?  A nation of people growing sicker and more obese may be appealing to some. If these are the fruits of America’s much celebrated freedom and liberty perhaps it’s laws and public policy ought to be adjusted consequently. 

For most Americans, comprehensive health care is a privilege instead of a right. This in a country which will spend over 700 billion dollars on defense in 2013 alone. Clearly the United States cares more about unilateral military incursions and expanding its empire than ensuring it’s citizens have adequate access to even the most basic health care.

Americans appear to be using their abundance of freedoms to shove increasingly large portions of toxic sludge into their faces, lungs and bodies with the predictable outcome of failing health at near pandemic proportions. Unfortunately the question of who will pay for their care never came up. 

Most western democracies have some form of single payer health care. People pay into it with their taxes with the result that no citizen is ever uninsured, a situation millions of Americans face everyday. One and a half million Americans will declare bankruptcy this year and an astonishing 60 percent of these will be due to medical bills.

This ought to upset any American. How can there be so many hundreds of billions of dollars for war but so little for health care? 

When the issue of single payer is raised in the United States, the wealthiest among us have been able to dictate the narrative with a deft combination of misinformation and fear-mongering. They warn an America with single payer health care will be no better than Germany, Sweden or Canada, countries deemed no better than Mao’s China with their unfair distribution of wealth. The wealthiest one percent tell the public they will be handing their hard earned money over to shiftless transients who are too lazy to work themselves.

They will blame the victims of America’s budgeting inequities and, because so many Americans naively believe they might someday join the beautiful people, they recoil from such prospects as a health care system which cannot exclude anybody. 


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The ‘us against them’ portrayal of health care, or any other piece of a functioning social safety net, appears to be isolated to the United States. Canada has it’s own millionaires and a bustling business sector yet it’s citizens feel that making sure everyone is taken care of is an important part of citizenship.

People don’t worry much about paying into a system which will ultimately benefit them as well as their friends, families and neighbors.  America’s elite, many of whom are CEOs of health insurance companies, can only continue to capitalize on a frightened and decaying population if they perpetuate this tired, fallacious class war scenario. So far it is working perfectly.

When President Obama proposed the Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislature which could never be confused with single payer and which still lines the pockets of insurance providers, Americans took to the streets en masse protesting the governments’ attempts to save them a few dollars. The CEOs of Cigna, United Health Care and Kaiser Permanente among others were surely congratulating their Wall Street friends as they witnessed the spectacle.

Under a single payer system, Americans would no longer have to declare bankruptcy due to medical bills. The young and elderly wouldn’t eat up modest family savings which might have been set aside for their child’s college tuition or their own retirement.

An American single payer system would not necessarily copy any other country’s. America is not in danger of becoming France or Belgium, though one could do much worse, and isn’t it about time the HMOs were run out of town?

They make record profits while searching diligently for ways to deny their clients the care they need. How proud can Americans really be of a country which ranks 37th in health care?

It is a sick system and the time has come for it to stop.

Currently the Green Party of the United States is the only National political party which would implement single payer. Unfortunately, the Green Party has been successfully muzzled by the two corporate parties, both of which continue to receive massive contributions from the health insurance industry. 


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Russ Rankin

Santa Cruz, California native Russ Rankin is the vocalist for the seminal California punk band Good Riddance, the hard rock band Only Crime as well as currently performing original songs as a solo artist. Rankin is a dedicated vegan, an avid animal rights advocate, a political activist and has been a regular columnist for AMP Magazine and New Noise Magazine as well as contributing to various magazines such as Alternative Press, Razorcake and others. 

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