Yesterday someone emailed me a link to a mock NYT article, National Health Insurance Act Passes. I’m embarrassed to confess: I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. I believe that universal health care is one of the most important issues of our time, so, for a minute, as I read the first few paragraphs, I was elated. And then I noticed the date: July 4, 2009.
The United States National Health Insurance Act really does exist. Representative John Conyers first introduced the bill (H.R. 676) in 2003. Today there are 93 cosponsors. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system for all, essentially expanding the U.S. Medicare program. It would be what is described as a “single payer” system.
Polls show that some sixty-four percent of Americans want the U.S. to adopt universal health insurance. Fifty-four percent support a single payer system, as do 6 in 10 physicians. President-elect Obama has said that he would consider a single payer health care system if he were designing a system from scratch.
So why does the idea of “Medicare for all” seem so far-fetched? Is it really on “that’ll never happen” par with Donald Rumsfeld tearfully admitting on “The View” that “the whole torture thing wasn’t such a good idea” (as reported in another mock NYT article)?
Are we intimidated by the prospect of confronting a powerful insurance lobby? Is the stumbling block the “socialized medicine” label that opponents are quick to throw around?
I’ll confess one other thing: the article left me feeling energized in a surprising way. For a moment, I felt what it would be like to learn that Congress had taken a genuinely groundbreaking step to ensure that no one falls between the cracks. That the right to health care would finally be something people enjoy and not just hear about in debates. That 18,000 people wouldn’t die that year because they couldn’t afford care. That hundreds of billions of dollars wouldn’t be diverted from health care to administration while policymakers talk about having to make hard choices about who can be covered. And that hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t be forced into bankruptcy or homelessness by crushing medical bills.
So what do you think? Can we make universal healthcare a reality in the United States?
Learn more about what activists in the U.S. are doing to bring about universal healthcare: