Health care in the United States is a $3.5 trillion industry, with New York — at a cost of more than $10,725 per person, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — making up more than $163 billion of those costs.
From pretty much the beginning, health care is something Americans have treated as a commodity. We receive services, and we pay for those services.
As medicine grew more complex, costs became more and more difficult to handle. Late in the 19th century, what would become the modern medical insurance industry was born. However, it wouldn’t be until the 1920s that such offerings became more widely available.
Unless you’ve lived outside the country for any extended period of time, the only health care we have known is one that exists through our health insurance. We pay out premiums on a regular basis, and when it comes time to cash in to receive those services, many times we have to pay even more out of pocket, typically up to some pretty sizeable caps.
But people want change. Since 2000, outside of a three-year period immediately following the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, far more Americans have demanded the federal government take control of health care than those who think it should stay private, according to Gallup. The 57 percent in favor of such a move in the most recent polling is the highest since before Barack Obama was even elected.
But such change cannot happen overnight.
Implementing a measure as complex as the New York Health Act is one that is designed to remove and rebuild the entire backbone of our society. It’s something that has grown and enveloped us for nearly a century, and casting it aside will not be easy.
This is where patience comes in. While many would love to enjoy the benefits that could come with a single-payer health care system now, the fact is, there are a number of things that must happen first before such a program can even be implemented.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is ready to give single-payer the green light, but state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi is being more cautious. And she’s right to do so.
In fact, New York isn’t the first to try and get single-payer going. The previous attempt — in Vermont — was a disaster. And anyone who supports single-payer knows that the movement cannot afford another failure.
Every step must be deliberate. It must be thoroughly thought through. It must be exact.
One way or the other, New York will be a model for the future of single-payer health care. Let’s just make sure it’s a model of success, and absolutely not a model of failure.