On a recent weekend, I joined with fellow Oak Parkers outside the farmers’ market and asked my neighbors to sign a petition supporting single-payer health care. Most people were incredibly supportive – no surprise since polls say that about 60 percent of the United States supports a single-payer option. Even the busy folks juggling children in strollers and bags of fresh fruit paused when they heard we were talking about health care. It is an issue that strikes people at a gut level and makes us dredge up some of our deepest fears: that we won’t be able to take care of ourselves and our families, that we will go bankrupt, and that we will be sick with no help and nowhere to turn.
I share all those fears. As a divorced, working mother who provides insurance for me and my son through my employer, I have my own fears about hanging onto my job and keeping us insured. I also have glaucoma and worry that without insurance the expensive eye drops I use daily to slow down my vision loss will be unaffordable, and that I will go blind.
Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and if there is anything that I think my government should be involved in, it is providing quality health care. Medicare could be improved and expanded to include coverage for everyone. It would continue to be publicly funded, and you could still go to the doctor or hospital of your choice. It could be paid for easily in the administrative savings of a nonprofit system. Physicians for a National Health Program says that “needless administration consumes 31 percent of Americans’ health dollars … The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.”
I campaigned for President Obama, but he has got to hear our voices on health care. A system with private insurers at the core will not be able to contain costs and will still leave people uninsured, even with a “public option.” More likely it will add one more layer to the confusing jumble of private insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ programs and state children’s health insurance programs.
I urge you to learn more about single payer (www.pnhp.org is full of info), talk to your neighbors, write the newspapers and call your legislators. Tell them you support Rep. John Conyers’ House Bill 676 and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Senate Bill 703. Call senators Durbin and Burris and ask them to sign on.
Now is the time to act. Private insurers are spending plenty of money to try to influence the legislation that is passed. Make your voice count as much as their money.
Look for us single-payer supporters in the Oak Park 4th of July parade. Or email me at email@example.com.
Diane Scott is an Oak Park writer who hopes to be able to see for the rest of her life.