ACTIVISTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY have provided real momentum to the idea of a single-payer health care system, pressing the issue in California and among leading figures in the Democratic Party.
The mere prospect of single payer, however, has elicited swift derision from some corners of the party, with Dick Gephardt, the former Democratic House minority leader, laughing off the idea at a health insurance conference earlier this month.
Not in my lifetime, scoffed Gephardt, when asked if the United States will ever adopt such a system.
Gephardt, who serves as a Democratic superdelegate responsible for choosing the partys presidential nominee, was asked about the possibility of single payer at the Centene Corporation annual investor day conference at The Pierre, a ritzy five-star hotel in New York City.
Centene, which merged with Health Net two years ago, is a health insurance company that sells coverage in 28 states. At the conference, which included investors and Centene executives as well as lobbyists, an unidentified participant asked Gephardt about whether the industry should fear being replaced by a single-payer-style system. Such a move, the questioner remarked, would present an existential threat.
There is no way you could pass single payer in any intermediate future, Gephardt declared. America, he added, has the greatest health care system in the world, bar none. And while single payer would provide universal coverage, there would be less quality and innovation without the involvement of the private sector.
Haley Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chair, another speaker at the event, chimed in to agree. Hear, hear. Put me down as agreeing with Leader Gephardt as usual, Barbour chuckled.
Its important for people to know that opposition to single payer in both parties, something most of the industrialized world has, has nothing to do with legitimate issues regarding its implementation in concept and everything to do with the health insurance lobby's influence and unwillingness to cede their profits and control.
The excuse of the private sector's innovation is particularly egregious as the US government has funded expansion and research into the medical industry already for the longest time without question.