With the presidential election a year away and health care a top issue, presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have offered single-payer proposals that draw hosannas from the political left, ambivalence from the center and cries of horror and socialism from defenders of the current system.
Of the two, Warren’s is more documented, right down to how she proposes to pay for it. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gives it a nod in his Nov. 1 column, but predictably, conservatives tell us we can’t afford it, and so-called centrist worriers say we’re moving much too fast.
Too fast, you say?
Ecclesiastes teaches there are “no new things under the sun.” It is the same with single-payer health insurance. More than 100 years ago no less a Republican-turned-Progressive than Teddy Roosevelt called for universal health insurance in the 1912 Progressive Party Platform.
Roosevelt lost, but the idea was revived by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman and took form as Medicare under Lyndon Johnson and, 40-some years later, as the Affordable Care Act under President Barack Obama.
Philosophically, I’m with those who believe we can do better. The Affordable Care Act is a beginning, but we’re not there yet. We have a long way to go — starting with the cost of prescription drugs.
The imperatives, logic and examples in other industrialized countries for single-payer are all there, but I’m fearful it might take a generational change to sort it all out. At 74, I’m a gray-head, and I don’t like change. Yet I worry there are too many of us, along with vested interests and sclerotic naysayers, to make it happen.
Democracy is slow, and patience is needed, but a single-payer system, be it Medicare For All or a public option, is in the cards because what we have is unsustainable. It makes really sick people go bankrupt.
I will have more thoughts in future columns on health care and other issues as we move closer to November 2020, but this essay isn’t about the health care debate. It’s about a personal experience right here in Prior Lake.
The story began a few weeks ago. I had a pain in my neck. My wife, Marcia, and some readers will say figuratively that I am a pain in the neck, but this was no metaphor. Not that I want to go into graphic detail, but it began as a swelling at my hair line and ballooned into something about the size of a half-dollar. It was an infected cyst.
Being stupid in such matters, I chose to ignore it, figuring I’d tough it out. A friend suggested I consult Dr. Pimple Popper. By the weekend it was so swollen and painful I couldn’t put my head on a pillow and spent two nights sitting up in a comfy chair with our little dog in my lap.
Monday, I went to the Fairview Clinic to see if my doctor had some time. He was booked, but the receptionist said a nurse would have a look at it later that afternoon. When I came in, the nurse took one look and summoned another doctor to check it out.
The doctor was impressed and ordered a supply of antibiotics and referred me to a general surgeon who would, presumably, remove it the next day — likely at a same-day surgery center. I left with the antibiotics and a referral.
The next morning, the phone rang. It was my doctor. He said they had a cancellation, and if I could come in, he’d take care of it — and he did. Two hours later I walked out with a bandage on the back of my neck, problem solved. I was grateful and impressed.
The follow-up phone call from my doctor was unexpected. I can vaguely remember having the measles as a kid and the doctor calling my mother and making a house call, but that was 1947 or ‘48 — before the “Marcus Welby” era.
Thereafter, I’d grown accustomed to the modern medical bureaucracy and its impersonal shuffle. But this was my doctor calling me to see how I was doing and saying he’d take care of the problem if I’d come right over.
How wonderful. This is what good health care is all about — not the politics. So, with that, a big thank you to Drs. Lehrer and Vanderscoff, the nurses, the receptionists and the pharmacy staff at the Fairview Clinic.
I’m well, but I’m still resolved to be a pain in the neck.