This post was written by Sarah Jaffe, a blogger, freelance journalist and Nation intern.


Healthcare reform is on everyone’s mind these days. President Obama has repeatedly stressed his desire to bring all interested parties to the table to discuss the options, and even the insurance companies and the American Medical Association seem ready to play along.

Yet the one group that has been mostly shut out of the discussions is the single-payer healthcare crowd. When medical practitioners who advocate for single-payer arrived at Senator Max Baucus’s health care roundtables, some of them were even arrested.

A single-payer health care system, or “Medicare for all,” in which the government would take the place of insurance companies in paying for care, and which would be funded by taxes rather than premium payments, is how Canada and most of Europe provides care. As Senator Bernie Sanders said in an interview with The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel,

” [T]he only way you’re gonna provide comprehensive, universal, and cost-effective healthcare to every man, woman, and child in this country is through a single-payer system. That’s just a simple reality. And the reason for that is that to pay for universal comprehensive healthcare you have to deal with the enormous amount of waste that is currently within the private health insurance industry. The estimate is about $400 billion a year in administrative costs, in billing, in profits, in CEO compensation, in advertising–all of those things which have nothing to do with the provision of healthcare…”

Single-payer health care would not only cut the endemic waste in our current for-profit health care system, but it would provide true coverage for all citizens regardless of income level. In addition, it could provide economic benefits to stimulate the broader economy. According to a study by the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, switching to a single-payer system would:

1. Create 2,613,495 million new permanent good-paying jobs (slightly exceeding the number of jobs lost in 2008) — and jobs that are not easily shipped overseas

2. Boost the economy with $317 billion in increased business and public revenues

3. Add $100 billion in employee compensation

4. Infuse public budgets with $44 billion in new tax revenues

Health care costs are one of the major debts weighing down the auto companies, driving them steadily toward bankruptcy, and a reason that cars built in Japan–or Canada–are cheaper than those built in the US. As Morton Mintz wrote in The Nation in 2004, single-payer health care would be good for business as well. But most importantly, it would be a system that could focus on health care, not health insurance.

Senator Sanders and a few other visionary progressives in Congress are continuing to fight for single-payer health care. They need your help. Please sign Sanders’ petition urging Congress to pass a bill that would provide “quality, comprehensive health care for all Americans” and tell your elected reps you expect them to do the same.