Accept no substitutes

Everyone’s talking about single-payer health care. Healthcare should be a right, and a single-payer system is the only way to deliver healthcare that makes sense in the 21st century.

In the Minnesota legislature I’ve been pressing for single-payer health care for many years. When we implemented the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Minnesota, even though the ACA helped many more Minnesotans get health insurance, I never touted the ACA as the thing that would fix health care. The ACA helped more low-income people get public health insurance, made it easier to compare private insurance plans, and stopped the worst abuses by insurers—but the ACA is still an insurance-based system with many problems and a lot of waste. 

Many DFLers are ready to move beyond the ACA to a single-payer (aka Medicare-for-All) system. The idea is so popular with DFLers that no DFL candidate for governor will say they are against against single-payer. But do they support it? Here’s where it gets confusing. What do they really support? 

Some talk about universal health care—which is an important goal—but universal health care and single-payer are not the same thing. A single-payer system would give us universal health care while the Affordable Care Act—even with a lot of taxpayer subsidies—clearly will not. If candidates don’t tell us how to get to universal health care they might not be supporting single-payer. 

One candidate put out a “single-payer” plan that isn’t single-payer. It uses multiple payers, but the candidate claims it would provide the benefits of a single payer plan. It doesn’t work that way.

Single-payer saves costs by removing insurance companies from between patients and doctors. Administrative costs plummet when doctors don’t have to bill multiple plans that have different requirements, patients don’t have to worry about networks or out-of-pocket costs, and no one has to figure out which plan to buy. But a system that pays multiple health plans to buy or provide care is not a single payer system. Whatever you call the middle-person, if doctors and hospitals are paid by more than one source the plan is not single-payer. You don’t get the benefits of single-payer if you leave the middle-people in. 

The Minnesota Health Plan (MHP) has often been introduced in the Minnesota legislature—and I have always supported it. The details are in the bill, and in a book by Senator John Marty—who has worked on the bill for many years. 

If you want a governor who supports real single-payer health care, join us.

Accept no substitutes.

Weekly EmailLeo Alfred