Update on the status of single payer health plans

Despite the sabotaging of the single payer and the public option by president Obama and the Democratic Party during the health care reform debate, it is not yet dead.

In an interview with OpEdNews, Dr. Margaret Flowers of that excellent group PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) talks about the moves currently underway in the various states. Vermont seems the most promising state to be the first to implement a single payer system.

Medicare and Medicaid are not the causes of our national deficit, they are the victims of a broken health system. As our overall health care costs rise, so do the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. The most effective way to control our health care costs would be to expand and improve Medicare and put everybody in the country on Medicare instead of using hundreds of different health insurances as we do now.

The administrative savings alone of a single payer national health program would be around $400 billion. There are other ways that single payer/Medicare for All controls health care costs such as giving hospitals and other medical institutions a global budget and negotiating for the prices of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and services.

There is a lot happening at the state level when it comes to single payer. Currently, twenty states have single payer health bills in some phase of the legislative process.

As you may know, California has passed a state single payer bill twice in 2006 and 2008. I just returned from a large health professional student-led march, rally and lobby day at the state capital in Sacramento. The California single payer coalition is continuing to move forward to pass single payer and have it signed by the new Governor. California faces such a serious budget crisis that I was told the legislature will be basing their cuts on what will result in the least number of lives lost.

We are particularly enthusiastic this year about Vermont. They are poised to pass a single payer health bill this legislative session. The state hired Dr. William Hsaio from Harvard to design their health system. He has designed health systems for five countries, the most recent being the single payer system in Taiwan. The new governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, ran on a strong single payer platform. And, of course, Vermont has Senator Sanders, who has been a long time proponent of single payer.

Even with all of the stars seeming to be aligned, it is going to be a difficult process to get single payer passed in Vermont. The forces who oppose this, primarily the corporations who profit from the status quo, will be putting tremendous resources into that state to stop single payer. For that reason, many of the organizations that support single payer are working to assist the state single payer movement. Single payer advocates from across the nation are volunteering or helping to raise funds for Vermont.

I encourage your readers to visit www.vermontforsinglepayer.org to learn more about the efforts there and to support them.

Legislation will also be introduced at the national level again in both the House and Senate this year. It is important to work at both the state and national levels because we cannot predict where we will be successful first. Of course, the ultimate goal is a national single payer health program so that all people living in our country will have access to care and so that we can control our health care costs at the national level. Health care costs are a significant cause of our national debt.

Ohio’s push for single payer is being driven by SPAN Ohio (Single Payer Action Network Ohio).


  1. Steve LaBonne says

    It’s the only way to escape the looming fiscal train wreck that is the American health care “system”, and I’ve always thought states leading the way would be the path by which it will happen (just as it as it started with a single province in Canada.)

  2. Mary Ann says

    I heard on NPR today, a cardiologist say that paying more for your health care doesn’t guarantee you better health or longer life. Britons are living to 80 years, while Americans can only make it to 78! WHy are we killing ourselves to pay for healthcare?????

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