Letter: Single-payer health care and Albert Lea

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Single-payer health care is a national or state medical system that pays for its residents’ medical costs with tax money. The cost of health care in this nation is climbing faster than the rest of the world’s developed nations, our rate of inflation, the cost of living and the wages of poor and middle class families. Under a single-payer model, our nation would be able to negotiate prescription drug costs like the rest of the industrialized world does.

So who is against this? Prescription drug companies and the politicians they have given campaign contributions to stick out as key players, from both sides of the aisle, I might add. The GOP is staunchly against this and moderate Democrats oppose it in favor of salvaging the Affordable Care Act. I believe insurance companies vehemently oppose this and deliver vast untold sums of money into our political process to stop it.

Who is for this? From the people I’ve talked to personally this last year while campaigning: Minnesota Farmers Union; Minnesota Nurses Association; SEIU, which hosted the one-day strike at Mayo last December; and most of the DFL gubernatorial candidates running in 2018. Pew Research shows a growing interest and support for single-payer health care among American residents since the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders.

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Is it possible? Yes, it is. Like marijuana prohibition in America, change is going to have to come from the state level before the national legislative body can fully embrace it. Vermont passed legislation in 2011 for universal health care, and Minnesota can, too, if we choose our representation well. According to DFL Rep. Tina Liebling at the gubernatorial forum on health care last fall, there has been a bill on the Minnesota House floor for 10 years on universal health care just waiting for the right amount of sponsorship and approval.

What does this mean for Albert Lea? It means that every hospital bed we fight for is going to matter in the long run. Our population size, business development, school system and housing economy depend on it. Every service we outsource to Austin and Rochester will likely stay there, because either single-payer health care will reign in privatized hospitals, possibly reducing rural expansion, the Affordable Care Act will price us out of quality coverage as the GOP chips away at it, or large cooperate interests and inaction will only speed up the process of customer consolidation we are experiencing here today.

Thomas Martinez