PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Ralph Nader Joins the Others Who Agree With My Stand on Single-Payer Medicare for All

By David M. Kinchen
Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader
I thought I was done with my series of pleas for single-payer Medicare for all -- the way it's done in Canada -- but none other than consumer activist Ralph Nader has come out for it. Yes, the very same Ralph Nader who not only killed G.M.'s Corvair, a car I admired,  but by running for President in 2000 saddled us with eight long years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Link:  

I recall asking Nader about the 2000 election on May 5, 2005 when he spoke in the Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. The question got a rise out of the Connecticut-born Nader, who vehemently denied that being on the ballot in Florida cost the election for Gore-Lieberman. Of course it did! He drained away liberal votes that would otherwise have gone to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman that would have given Gore-Lieberman the state and the election.

 My most recent plea for a simple option that would have avoided the mind-numbing complexities of Obamacare was last year, when I cited LBJ advisor and PBS commentator Bill Moyer who supported Medicare for all: 

 That column was my last on the subject; I figured the country was hell-bent on creating another health-care Frankenstein monster. Congress and Obama could have hammered out a cost-controlled single-payer plan that would emulate Canada's -- but they didn't.

One of the commenters to Nader's piece said that Canada's medicare meant that his only out-of-pocket expenses when his son was hospitalized for a heart operation and his father was hospitalized for a stroke were the parking fees. 

From the Nader piece: 

  Onterryo 2013-09-27 11:55 I live in Canada. My son had a 12 hour heart operation 7 years ago. The cost to me? About $60 worth of parking lot fees plus some pain pills for him after he was discharged. It's time for America to realize they are being lied to by the Republicans and their supporters who will continue to rake in huge profits at the expense of the American taxpayer. I am 62, my mom is 81 and you will never hear us complain about our system. Last year at the age of 82 my dad passed away from a stroke. He was in the hospital for more than a week before he died. Again, the cost was parking fees. For all of that time but two days he was in a private room. For his last two days he was in another private room where my mom could sleep in a convertible chair beside him until he breathed his last breath. There was no "death panel", just professional and loving care. Not only did the staff take care of him but also my mother while she stayed at his bedside more than 16 hours a day. Yes, sometimes things do not go perfectly but I would be willing to compare our clinics, emergency clinics and hospitals to those the US. We may not win every comparison but I believe we would win the vast majority.

 Contrast that with our Medicare, which infamously covers only 80 percent of Part B charges. I know first hand because my wife and I both are on Medicare. AARP runs round-the-clock ads for Medicare supplement insurance. I asked a local insurance agent about the cost of this insurance and he flat out told me: "Dave, you can't afford the premiums!"

Nader surprised me by agreeing with my senator, Ted Cruz, R-TX, about the complexities of Obamacare: 

"The other reaction to Senator Cruz was that many of his more specific objections to Obamacare -- its mind-numbing complexity, opposition by formerly supportive labor unions, and employers reacting by reducing worker hours below 30 hours a week to escape some of the law's requirements -- are well-taken and completely correctible by single-payer health insurance, as provided in Canada. Single-payer, or full Medicare for all, with free choice of physician and hospital has been the majority choice of Americans for decades. Even a majority of doctors and nurses favor it."

I was delighted to see that Nader cited two hard-headed Canadian capitalists in his piece:

"For those who prefer to believe hard-bitten businesspeople, Matt Miller, writing yesterday in The Washington Post, interviewed big business executives -- David Beatty who ran the giant Weston Foods and Roger Martin long-time consultant to large U.S. companies in Canada. They were highly approving of the Canadian system and are baffled at the way the U.S. has twisted itself in such a wasteful, harmful and discriminatory system."

I've often said to myself and others that Canada is like the U.S. only smarter: Beatty and Martin confirm this view by their remarks. In the WAPO piece cited by Nader, Martin called Canadian Medicare "incredibly hassle-free," by comparison [with our system]. (In Canada, single-payer means government insurance and private delivery of healthcare under cost controls). Now Dean of the business school at the University of Toronto, Mr. Martin told Washington Post reporter Miller: 'I literally have a hard time thinking of what would be better than a single-payer system'."

 Also in the Washington Post piece cited by Nader, "Beatty wondered why U.S. companies 'want to be in the business of providing health care anyway' ('that's a government function,' he says simply)."

As long as the insurance companies maintain their stranglehold on legislation through their lobbying efforts, we probably won't achieve the simplicity of single-payer Medicare for all that would widen the risk pool and make health care simple. The problem is the U.S. doesn't do simple!