Assuming we’re all agreed that Barack Obama is going to be the president, there’s one thing I wish he’d go ahead and do right now: Return to his onetime support for a single-payer health care system.
As you know, I came to two conclusions awhile back:
- That only a single-payer plan would solve our country’s problems paying for health care. Anything short of that just further complicates the problem. We miss the mark by talking all the time about the "uninsured." It’s the majority of us who ARE covered, but increasingly can’t afford our health care bills anyway, who are the much greater problem. We need to eliminate the for-profit middlemen in the equation.
- The only way we’ll get single-payer is for someone to RUN for president on that platform and win convincingly. If Obama (or, to stretch a point, McCain) announced AFTER getting elected that he wanted a single-payer system, Congress would tell him to go fly a kite. The private insurance industry — folks like my old friend Joel Wood — have WAY too much juice on the Hill for a president to make than happen unless he has a clear electoral mandate to do it.
And the operative word is “bold.” Why? Because unless we start the conversation there, all we might hope for is that a few more of the one out of seven Americans who don’t have insurance will be in the “system” with the rest of us — if that, after the inevitable watering-down by Congress. And that’s not “reform.” Actual reform would rescue all of us from a “system” that neither American workers nor American employers can afford to keep propping up.
A lot of people have high hopes for Obama changing this country for the better. There is no more dramatic way he could do so than to win after coming out for a REAL health care solution.
No, he’s not going to do that. He’s way too cautious, far too deliberate. He sticks to his game plan. He’s not going to rock that boat now. If I thought I could convince him — and thought he could win — I’d urge McCain to do it. As we know, he’s far more willing to throw the dice (can you say, "Sarah Palin"?). But he’s never shown any interest in single-payer. But as Hillary Clinton pointed out back before the S.C. primary, Obama used to be for it, before he was against it.
But I wish he would. I think he’d still win, and then he could do some real good on this, our most important domestic issue.