The reasons that we don't offer universal, single-payer health care, or Medicare for everyone, in this country are the simplest aspects of this issue to discuss.
The main reason is not "cost," in the sense of what it would cost Uncle Sam, and ultimately all of us taxpayers, but what it would cost the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, HMOs, and some doctors if we switched completely to a taxpayer funded universal coverage system like the rest of the civilized world offers. As stated above, Americans spend more than any other country in the world in total dollars, and dollars per person. That means, a small percentage of Americans are making lots of money with the bloated, inefficient system we currently have, and of course they are not going to want to give up their lucrative livelihood.
The next most important reason is that these benefactors of the current system are spending a fortune on campaign contributions and lobbyists, buying the loyalty of our elected "representatives" to ensure that the system does not get changed, at all. The Republicans had total control of our government from January 21, 2001, till January 20, 2009, yet they did nothing even though they have "reformed" several other things they saw wrong with this country, like the bankruptcy laws and welfare while Clinton was president, and Medicare in 2003, and they tried to "reform" Social Security, but they made no effort to help the 45 million Americans without health insurance, or the companies that spend a significant portion of their profits providing half or more of the premiums for their employees. Alas, now some of the Democrats, along with almost all of the Republicans in Congress, are trying to prevent real change or improvement because they say it is
"politically infeasible," or "it would increase the national debt too much," when in reality they are beholden to the health insurance industry and the health care providers because of massive campaign contributions. They are representing the few at the continued expense of the many.
Then the next most important reason we don't have single-payer health care is the success of the propaganda war being waged by the health insurance industry, Republicans, and many in the news media who get advertising dollars, and ultimately their grand salaries, from the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and from for profit hospitals.
The industry and Republicans in Congress say that universal, single-payer health care is "Socialism." Maybe so, but these same people don't have a problem with using taxpayer money to bailout the big banks and the con artists on Wall Street who played a major part in the collapse of our economy, or in giving billions of tax dollars to our oil companies for "exploration."
Allow me to point out that our military, our defense spending, is Socialism as well! If we did national defense the way Republicans say we should provide health care - strictly through the private sector, relying on almighty capitalism to allocate resources, then each American would have to have their own gun and ammo, or even their own, or part of their own, battleship, strategic bomber, tank, or Humvee! We would have to hire our own soldiers, if we could afford them. But many people who make very little money pay no taxes, and many rich people and corporations who avoid paying all or any part of their tax obligations still get benefit from the weapons and soldiers provided by billions upon billions of tax dollars paid by those who cannot avoid paying their taxes. That is Socialism - the many providing for the few!
Isn't it just as important to protect the lives of American citizens from disease and accidents as it is to protect their lives from the remote possibility that Russia or China or even terrorists might attack us? Which is more likely? China will attack its best customer and biggest debtor, or you will have a car accident, cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, etc, etc, etc? Don't current and former soldiers and all government workers get their health care provided at least by having 60% of their insurance premiums paid by all taxpayers? Isn't that Socialism? I work for the federal government, and I think that every American should have at least what I get, but I would prefer single-payer!
A frequent lie told about Socialized medicine is that you would be restricted by the government as to which doctors you could see and which treatments you could receive. Isn't that in fact what your health insurance company, which operates to maximize its profits to pay CEOs huge salaries and to make stock holders happy, does right now? Don't you have "preferred providers" approved by your health insurance company as mine does? Aren't you declined coverage if you go outside your service provider area? Haven't you heard any of the stories about people who HAVE health insurance but who are denied coverage because of "pre existing conditions," or because the insurance company considers the treatment you need too expensive or even unnecessary? Whether you like Michael Moore or not, you should watch the documentary, "Sicko," to see numerous examples of people who thought they had health insurance coverage but were denied treatment.
Another lie told about Socialized medicine is that you have to wait too long to get treatment. I doubt that applies to emergency treatment in Europe, just as it doesn't apply to us here, but show me where you can walk into your family doctor's office with a serious problem, that is not immediately life threatening, and get it treated that day. In this country you have to wait at least a few days, or several weeks, or even months in some cases to see a specialist. How is that quicker than in countries with Socialized medicine? Small town doctors and doctors at walk-in clinics do provide immediate treatment as long as the problem is not too serious, but I'll bet that is true in Canada, England and Europe as well.
Let me give you one example of which I have firsthand knowledge and two examples of which I have secondhand knowledge regarding healthcare availability in this country. On April 14 of this year I went to my new family doctor with a sore throat, sinus infection, and chest cold. The waiting room was empty when I arrived. I was obviously sick. The receptionist told me that I had to have an appointment to see "my" family doctor! I told her, "Well, if I had known a week ago that I was going to be sick today, I would have gotten an appointment!" I left and went to a walk-in clinic and waited with a dozen other people.
In 2004, on my way back from China, a woman from Texas sitting beside me on the plane, told me that she had been to Beijing to get stem cell therapy for her son who had broken his neck in a motorcycle accident. He could not get that treatment in this country! His mother said he showed significant immediate improvement by gaining movement of his fingers while there.
In 2005 a college friend of mine fell while working on his house. He already suffered from degenerative disc disease and ruptured three discs when the ladder slipped and he fell. He could not get three discs replaced in this country because his health insurance company would not pay for it - it was considered "experimental." They would however pay for the much cheaper procedure of having the four vertebrae fused. He offered to pay for two if the insurance would pay for the one disc replacement they said they would pay for. They still refused. He then told his doctor that he would pay for all three of them out of his own pocket, but his doctor said his malpractice insurance would not allow him to do that. He ended up going to Germany and had two discs replaced and one trimmed by a German doctor and he paid for the entire thing out of his own pocket even though he had paid health insurance premiums for years! The operation was successful and he
still has normal range of motion of his lower back that he would not have had had his discs been fused.
And the final reason we don't have single-payer healthcare is that the cynic in me tells me that businesses which offer health insurance don't want universal, single-payer healthcare because it would also give workers more ability to leave an unsatisfactory job without fear of giving up their insurance. Imagine the people who have a good idea and who might try to start their own business if they did not have to worry about leaving their current job and insurance benefit and then not be able to afford medical treatment in time of need. Also keep in mind how much less stressful a factory shutdown or layoff would be if workers didn't have to worry about losing their health care along with their job!