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Better approach to health care: A single payer solution for Obama

An open letter in response to President Obama's State of the Union request for a better approach to health care reform:

Dear President Obama,

During your State of the Union address, you explained why you are fighting for health care reform, expressed frustration at the lack of success, and invited others to suggest a better approach.

I'm taking you up on that invitation and offer a bold suggestion:

Take a look at our Minnesota Health Plan — a proposal that covers everyone, saves money, and creates a logical health care system to replace the dysfunctional non-system which currently exists. It is a proposal that would provide health care to everyone, not merely health insurance for many. Our MN Health Plan (mnhealthplan.org) could be readily adapted as a nation-wide plan. It would meet each of the five requirements you mentioned in your State of the Union request:

Bring Down Premiums. Most Americans would see a big reduction in premiums because the plan would be significantly cheaper than our current health care non-system. Because the premiums for the MHP would be based on ability to pay, everyone's premiums would be affordable. Some would pay more, but overall, costs would go down. Most people would save money, while getting the care they need and deserve. The total costs for the plan would be less than we now are paying for premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and taxes for medical programs.


Bring Down the Deficit. By keeping people healthier and by delivering quality health care efficiently, it would save hundreds of billions of dollars for the federal government, and even more for states. For example, by covering chemical dependency treatment and providing comprehensive mental health services, it would cut crime and human service costs (such as out-of-home placement of children), some of the biggest and fastest growing expenses facing state and local governments.

Cover the Uninsured. It would cover the uninsured and the under-insured. In fact it would cover everyone – 100 percent of the public.

Strengthen Medicare for Seniors (and everyone else). It would cover prescription drugs — with no "doughnut hole." It would cover long term care, in-home care, dental, eye care, physical therapy, and medical supplies — it would cover all medical needs. And, they would have their choice of doctor, hospital, clinic, dentist — complete freedom to choose their medical providers.

State Sen. John Marty
State Sen. John Marty

Stop Insurance Company Abuses. There would be no "pre-existing conditions" to worry about, no underwriting, no denials of coverage, no "out of network" problems. I like to use the analogy of police and fire protection. When you return home to find a burglary in process and call 911, the police dispatcher does not ask if you qualify. They do not ask if you have police insurance. They do not ask whether your policy covers home burglary. They don't ask if you have pre-existing conditions that would disqualify you. They don't waste time and money having you fill out forms so your insurance company can be billed. The police response does not depend on your insurance status. Everyone is treated equally. It's the American way. It is time to treat health care the same way.

As a 23 year member of the Minnesota Senate, let me comment briefly on the politics of this proposal:

The MHP is a single payer proposal. You have acknowledged that single payer is the only way to cover everyone. Seven years ago you said that single payer health care is "what I'd like to see. But... we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House." Now that we have taken back the White House and the Congress, it is time to act.

I recognize, as you do, that you do not have the votes to pass truly universal health care at this time. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries contribute so much to members of Congress — they control the debate — so health care for everyone isn't even on the table.

This, however, is your opportunity for leadership. If you propose and fight for health care for all, as FDR did with Social Security in 1935, the voters would respond. If you don't win this year, ask the American people to elect candidates who will stand with you. Make it the issue of the campaign: Health Care for All vs. Health Insurance for Some. Instead of losing Democratic members of Congress this year — as Massachusetts illustrates — you would gain votes and could actually pass the bill next year.

Dr. Martin Luther King stated, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

Almost a half century later, we still have not addressed the injustice in health care that Dr. King described as the most inhumane. Ignoring this injustice is immoral and it is economically unsustainable. People are hurting, some are literally dying, businesses are folding, and it is crushing our national economy.

Please, restore the hope that you raised in all of us, bring back the inspiration that made the American people so excited by your inauguration. I urge you to step back, reconsider, introduce a health care plan that is truly universal, and fight for it.

Justice requires no less.

State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, is a candidate for governor.

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Comments (5)

I'm sorry Mr. Marty but I was so hopeful this Fall that something would get done on healthcare. The footdragging from both sides liberal and moderate primarily blue dogs has made your counterweight arguement a dead weight. And it hurts to think that 30 million and millions more could have been helped in a major way but now we may be returning to small idea government. I think your arguement is a good one but it would never get passed remember we have an undemocratic system entrenched in the Senate.

Thank you, Senator Marty, for continuing to fight for the MN Health Plan. It's refreshing to see a politician who doesn't pander to corporate interests, but rather is truly concerned about the people of our state and country.

Whether you become our next governor or not, I will continue to stand with you in working to get universal coverage for all Minnesotans. It's the right thing to do.

Dan B: The most successful piece of propaganda alive in Washington today is that America is "not ready" for single payer, and that it is therefore politically impossible.

The truth is that about 65 percent of Americans want single payer. The two things making it politically difficult, surely not impossible, are the belief that the private sector does everything better and cheaper than government (wrong) and that insurance companies and other corporate members of the industry spend countless millions of dollars in campaign contributions and anti-reform TV and print advertising.

One of their leading "thinkers" even created the terms we keep hearing -- death panels, government takeover, et cetera -- from every right winger.

Enacting Senator Marty's plan could make us America's Saskatchewan, the first Canadian province to adopt single payer. Contrary to yet more propaganda, Canadians really appreciate their system and would never exchange it for ours.

Furthermore, even though the British system is quite different from Canada's, after a Conservative British politician criticized the National Health Service on U.S. TV, it caused an uproar in the UK.

The comment sections of the online editions of British newspapers were filled with indignant remarks. On one website, there were 800 comments, and since the topic is of interest to me, I read them all.

These 800 comments included about 100 people who had experienced both the British and American systems, whether as Americans living in the UK, or British people living in the US.

About 2/3 of the 800 told of good to excellent experiences with the NHS and expressed their appreciation for not having to worry about payment when they had medical emergencies or catastrophic ailments.

Of course, not everyone was happy, but of the unhappy people, most of them said, "We should have something like the Canadian system" or "We should have something like the German system," or "We should have something like the French system."

Of all those 800 people, only ONE said he preferred the American system. The 100 people who had experienced both systems overwhelmingly preferred the British system.

That should tell you something.

Finally an enlightened state legislator who has some decent ideas on mental health reform. I wish we had legislators of this caliber in North Carolina where we have undergone 11 years of incompetent disastrous mental health 'reform' that has destroyed our state's system of care for public mental health. Unfortunately I feel we have done our state as much damage as Michigan did to its system in the 1990's under the former Gov. John Engler.
Feel fortunate Minnesotans for this caliber of state leadership. Maybe Sen. Marty could clone himself and send of himself to NC....