Open letter to Senator Robert Menéndez: Single Payer!

My right honourable friend David Mintz shares with us this missive that he composed for Senator Robert Menéndez, gentleman from New Jersey, in regard to health care reform legislation. Though it’s substantiallly redundant with your humble servant’s letter published here just a few days earlier, we think the message herein bears repeating.
Dear Senator Menéndez:
I write in response to your invitation to your constituents to their submit ideas regarding health care reform. Note that this is not a canned text or a copy-and-paste job, but my own words.
The public option may sound like a good idea, but it’s clear that the likely outcome of HR 3200 is more of the same. Any solution built on top of the existing private-insurance-based scheme is a loser, as a public option plan will only be able to compete with the private sector by emulating the latter’s worst characteristics, shifting costs onto consumers and delaying or denying benefits. Indeed, from what I read of HR 3200, it contains a provision that the public option offer three or four distinct tiers of coverage with names like “Basic,” “Standard,” and “Premium” — meaning if you have enough money, you can buy relatively good coverage (emphasisi on relatively), whereas if you can’t afford the higher premiums, you can gamble with your health; and if you lose, go down the toilet both financially and medically. This sounds all too familiar.
It’s abundantly clear that the only rational and humane solution is a single payer system, and I therefore urge you to forget HR 3200 and support HR 676 and Senate 703. As a society, we are already spending enough to cover everyone, but 30 cents on every health care dollar is sucked up by insurance companies’ overhead and profits, while millions continue to go uninsured or underinsured. This is as immoral as it is wasteful. For-profit healthcare is an oxymoron, because health care is a human right, not a commodity.
When politicians say single payer sounds good but it isn’t politically feasible, I don’t buy it, for if every politician voted for single payer, you would have the votes. At worst, “not politically feasible” is a cynical expression whose true meaning is “I am up to my ears in private insurance and pharmaceutical money, and dare not betray my corporate masters.”
The economic disruption to the health care industry can be managed. Consider, as a reasonable compromise, phasing in single payer by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare by ten years every two until everyone is in from cradle to grave. (And, as a real “public option,” provide that others who are below the eligibilty age can opt to buy in at an earlier age via payroll deduction.) Further, HR 676 provides that displaced health insurance workers receive top priority for re-training and employment in the public, national health insurance program.
Of course, the right-wing fear-mongering about socialized medicine is to be expected, and should be ignored. HR 676 ought to be a true conservative’s dream, because it provides for an efficient, publicly financed, privately delivered health care system and eliminates vast amounts of waste. Even if we accept the language of the right and call it socialized medicine, I am telling you as a voter and citizen of these United States that I want socialized medicine.
How many of your constituents are satisfied with their private coverage, with its premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, exclusions, denials, delays, voicemail mazes, unintelligible form letters ironcially entitled Explanation of Benefits, and bureacrats incentivizing care providers to withhold care from them? I, for one, am among the fortunate: a healthy 51-year-old male with no chronic problems and relatively good insurance under BlueCross BlueShield Federal Employee Program “Standard Option.” Even so, I spend way too many hours doing battle with BCBS and providers over billing and reimbursements, and I have had quite enough.
I sincerely hope you will lend your support to genuine health care reform: Senate 703 and HR 676. As a bare minimum alternative, please support the Kucinich Amendment to 3200, which would make it easier for the states to implement single payer. If there is anything I can do to be of assistance in this regard, please feel free to call on me.