Single Payer Health Care is a concept that is mentioned often these days either as a pie-in- the-sky unreachable goal or as something we are told to fear because it will create a scarcity in good health care. After listening to Laurel Gamm, M.D, spokesperson for Physicians for A National Health Program (PNHP), at the St. Croix Valley NOW full membership meeting Oct. 14, 2018, I learned neither is true.

Gamm said Minnesota is ripe for being the groundbreakers in making health care equitable, leaving no one out of good health care. Five million people is a good size to try out a system that eliminates premiums and administrative costs, in favor of everyone drawing from the same pot of money for their individual health care needs. Most likely this pot of money would be generated from payroll taxes the same way Social Security is now.

Gamm has heartbreaking stories from when she worked in an emergency room about people holding off on seeking medical help, fearing medical bills, paying instead with their health and even their life. A woman who was having chest pains, for example, decided to risk waiting to get it checked out because she was still a few months from being 65 and qualifying for Medicare. Often people are underinsured and face massive bills, causing stress, and even bankruptcy.  

As most know, the physician’s code is “First do no harm.” Under our current failing system, Gamm says, physicians cannot really live up to this code because healthcare insurance does not allow it. The current insurance system does harm and is partially to blame for this country’s ranking of 29th on the Global Healthcare Access and Quality Index, she said.  

The reality is that we do have enough providers of good health care, for dental, physical, mental, and long term care, to meet the needs of each and every Minnesotan and it will not be more costly than what we are paying now by leaving people out, she said. It would also be much more efficient and less wasteful; currently 30% of insurance premiums goes to administrative costs.

Gamm has been preaching this for several years, and says even though Minnesota is inching closer, there is much more speaking up and insisting that people need to do to make the State Legislature move toward single-payer health care. Every Minnesotan deserves it, she said. After All, isn’t “we all do better when we all do better” our motto? We can set the trend for the country in creating a system where everybody is in, and everybody wins.   — Peg Ludtke, Secretary, SCVANOW