Single-Payer Health Care Unlikely Before 2020
The U.S. health care system "continues to weaken" as the number of uninsured U.S. residents increases, health care costs rise and companies reduce or eliminate workers' health benefits, but "chances are slim" that the U.S. will adopt a "far less expensive 'single-payer' health system ... anytime soon," the Christian Science Monitor reports. Polls have found that at least 60% of U.S. citizens support government funding of the nation's $2 trillion health care system, according the Monitor.
However, many U.S. residents "are cynical about government, distrusting its ability to provide a competent health care system" and "prefer a market-based system with a high degree of individual choice," the Monitor reports. In addition, "self-interested groups" with "political clout" -- such as pharmaceutical companies and health insurers, which "fear more government regulation, more interference" -- "don't want the government to restrain prices for [prescription] drugs or other medical services, as systems in other industrial countries do," according to the Monitor.
There also "is no strong leadership in Congress or the White House for radical change in the health care system," and "those who are satisfied with the system are unlikely to urge reforms to help the less fortunate," the Monitor reports.
According to Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, significant efforts to restructure the U.S. health care system will not come until there is a major health care crisis, perhaps with hospitals closing and many patients losing access to physicians.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, "is hopeful about a single-payer system because of what she calls a 'slow-motion collapse' of employee-sponsored health coverage," the Monitor reports, adding, "What may move the issue onto the front burner again is that in 2020 there will be about twice as many elderly in the nation, forcing up health care costs" (Francis, Christian Science Monitor, 11/6).