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Government provides police and fire services; why not health care too?

Mention the prospect of government involvement in health care to many Americans and they will give a skeptical response.  In his column in today’s New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof asks a great question: Why should we look at a government system any differently than a public fire or police department? Private fire insurance companies fought fires until the mid-19th century, and it was not a pretty picture. Government-run fire departments are much better.

The truth is, those who now receive health care through government programs (think Medicare, veterans hospitals) are more satisfied with their coverage than those paying for private plans.  Kristof gives some numbers to prove this:

Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.  In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high.

It is only because of the power held by the health insurance industry that many continue to think that government-financed health care is such a bad thing. Kristof points to several factors that show how single-payer health care (essential Medicare-for-all) would be more cost effective and provide fair quality coverage for everyone.

A study by the Rand Corporation concluded that compared with a national sample, Americans treated in veterans hospitals ‘recieved consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and followup.

Under a single-payer system, the government would collect pay all health care costs. Insurance companies — and their penny-pinching ways and denials of coverage — would be out of the picture. This means all Americans would get equal and quality health coverage.  In the end, care would be based on need not how much you pay, which is the way it should be. You have the power to tell Congress that a change needs to be made here.