In advance of the Republicans’ ascendancy to the House majority tomorrow, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has been making the television rounds, keeping the flame alive for a national single payer program. Appearing on Fox News and on MSNBC (see video below), Kucinich believes that if the Republicans are successful in repealing federal healthcare legislation — passed with great fanfare last year — that move could revive calls to adopt single payer as the only viable alternative for healthcare reform.
However, the chances of the Republicans actually succeeding in repealing the law in the near future are pretty slim. They won’t be able to drum up enough votes in the still Democratic-controlled Senate, and they certainly can’t get past President Obama’s veto. The worst they can do at this point is try to defund the parts of the legislation that are starting to go into effect, particularly the temporary high risk insurance pools for people with preexisting conditions. So far, only a little more than 8,000 of the 6 million people eligible nationwide have enrolled in the pools.
Whether the Republicans succeed in dismantling health reform or not, the country’s healthcare system will continue on a slow-motion collision course with disaster. Today, a record 50.7 million people nationwide are uninsured, according to new Census Department figures. And premiums for the insured keep going through the roof. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, this country is going to have to face up to the fact that a profit-driven, employer-based healthcare system will never be fair nor financially stable. It simply doesn’t work, and none of our competitors in the developed world operate their healthcare systems this way.
A renewed focus on establishing a more humane and affordable universal healthcare system — a publicly-funded, privately-delivered system — will have to be undertaken by the states. Vermont is well on its way, with a new governor who is a strong single-payer advocate. Here in California, with a strong Democratic majority in Sacramento, we have a great chance at finally getting a self-insurance program, SB 810, passed into law. Once one state — or more — shows just how successful single payer can be, this healthcare solution will quickly spread to the rest of the country.