New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, injected some balance into the health care reform discussion on Thursday. In a forceful counterpunch to conservative criticisms of the Canadian health care system, he reported the “real life story” story of Diane Tucker, an American living in Canada, who has had significant encounters with health care on both sides of the border. The one in Canada was positive, the one in the US was not.
in his follow on blog, Mr. Kristof writes that
Canada does have health care problems, including waits and escalating costs, but the U.S. has even worse problems – including that we spend twice as much per capita and get significantly worse results.
What is most refreshing is that it quickly became the number one e-mailed article on the New York Times on-line edition. Comments to both his column and his blog clearly indicate that, at least among Mr.Kristoff’s readers, a Canadian style health care delivery system would be a significant improvement over our current system.
Mr. Kristoff admits that he would prefer a single payer system, but concedes that is unlikely to happen. A public plan option is an adequate alternative, he argues.
But Mr. Kristoff reflects a creeping awareness among the media establishment that single payer is “on the table.” This is to the credit of the single payer activists who demanded to be heard beginning with their protest of President Obama’s health care summit and the Senate Finance Committee hearing in May.
Since then single payer voices are being heard on the streets, in the media and in Congress.
On the Streets
In cities across the country, activists have called for a single payer health care system. There was a rally in San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi’s back yard. There were rallies in Montana, Sen Baucus’ state. There was even a rally in my home town, Harrisburg, PA.
In the Media
The main stream media is only slightly less dismissive of single payer than Congress. Trudy Lieberman, in the Columbia Journalism Review, reminds us just how rare Mr. Krisoff’s voice is. Ironically the most exposure to single payer seems to be in the home state of Senator Max Baucus. Bill Moyers, true to form, showed the media how to do it on the Bill Moyers Journal on NPR. Single payer advocates did appear on the Ed Schultz Show, not main stream yet. And locally, single payer has had air time on Baltimore public radio and somthing approaching an objective discussion on the Dianne Rehm show on WMAU in Washington DC. But the media has not shown any great understanding of the issue.
Single Payer got a chance to appear before the Senate Health Education and Labor Committee on June 10 and June 11. Kevin Zeese, an activists with Maryland Health Care Now, reported on the site, Prosperity Agenda.
Yesterday, as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IO) left the health care hearing room he leaned over to me and said:
“I used to sell insurance. The basic rule is the larger the pool the less expensive the health care. Today we have 1,300 separate pools – separate health care plans – and that is why health care is so expensive; 700 pools would be more efficient and less expensive and one pool would be the least expensive. That’s why single payer is the answer.”
Nothing like common sense.
But, common sense was not on display in the Senate yesterday. Instead, the senate is seeking a path to the goal of universal coverage by protecting the least efficient model – the for-profit insurance industry that through waste, fraud, abuse and bureaucracy eats up 31% the cost of health care.
Back to the Streets, the Media and Congress
All of this may come together on Thursday, June 25th when single payer advocates from across the country will converge in Washington DC, 11:30 in Upper Senate Park, to rally and swarm their congressional representatives.
Hopefully the media will notice.