Obama plugs single-payer…sort of

Pub date July 23, 2009
SectionPolitics Blog

By Steven T. Jones

Only a single-payer system eliminates health insurance companies, which are portrayed as predatory pirates in this cartoon by Consumer Watchdog, with music by the Austin Lounge Lizards.

As President Barack Obama held a prime time news conference yesterday to boost his health care reform efforts, he tried to recast the imperative as saving the system for the average American rather than focusing on the 45 million Americans without insurance. But in the process of defending his plan, he also subtly reinforced the need for the single-payer system, as discussed in our cover story this week.

When asked about the approximately 2 percent of Americans that will be left uncovered by the Democrats’ plan, Obama said, “I want to cover everybody. Now, the truth is unless you have what’s called a single-payer system in which everyone’s automatically covered, you’re probably not going to reach every single individual.”

As Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times online story yesterday, Obama didn’t explain why he doesn’t then support single-payer, but Baker wrote, “In the past, he has said such a system might be preferable if the country were inventing a new health care structure from scratch but he does not want to completely upend the current system, which does work for many or most Americans.”

Unfortunately, that final statement is bullshit. Polls show most Americans don’t like the current system (56 percent want “major health care reform” this year, 62 percent want more government control over health care, etc.), although right-wing and insurance industry propaganda have made them scared of the change that is needed to realize the president’s goals of holding down costs, emphasizing preventive care, and ensuring universal access to quality and affordable care.

Upending the current system is precisely what needs to happen.