Single Payer: Not Going to Happen (Part 1)

Health care reform will be one of the top issues facing the new administration. Many people on the political left have already started pushing hard for a government-run universal single payer system, similar to the systems in Canada or the UK. Some have named the program "Medicare for All." Given the current economic, cultural, and political climate, there is no chance that such a health care system will be adopted in the near future.

The most important problem is the current economic recession. The major short term problems with adopting a single payer system is that it would literally bankrupt some of the country's largest companies overnight. Regardless of how you feel about the health insurance industry, they still employ millions of Americans across the country. It is inconceivable that during these economic times Congress would pass any bill that would put so many people out of work. Ironically, the economic downturn could make it easier to pass universal health care reform but make it almost impossible to adopt a single payer system. Layoffs and rising unemployment is going to create millions of more uninsured Americans. With trillions being used to help struggling corporations, the demand for money to help the nation's struggling working class pay for health care should be strong.

The next problem is cultural. Universal single payer would be a huge government takeover of a large segment of the economy (although through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and coverage for federal employees, the government already controls much of the health care sector). The idea of massively increasing the size of the federal government is not a popular one in this country. Groups opposed to health care reform have been very successful at turning single payer health care into a scary bogeyman. When they attack universal health care plans, they almost always go after either Canada's and/or the UK's. Countries with private yet highly regulated systems that ensure universal coverage are never mentioned. So far I haven't heard of anyone in America attacking the health care systems of Japan or the Netherlands.

Finally, there is just no political weight behind the single payer system. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton ran on a single payer health care plan. None of the top political players--Senator Baucus, Senator Kennedy, Senator Wyden, Senator Bennett, or Tom Daschle--currently support a single payer system.

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