Finding a voice for single-payer healthcare in an unlikely place–CNN

I must confess; I’m a semi-secret fan of the mainstream press. This is not because I admire its approach to the news. Rather, I think that the mainstream accepts the conservative mantra that all is well so long as the government doesn’t intervene. My soft spot for the mainstream is nostalgia; I grew up with it. The descendants of Huntley-Brinkley and Uncle Walter are no match for their elders, but all the same, I prefer to first receive news from sources that were my initial introduction to “news.”

CNN is not far behind; it celebrated its thirty-third birthday this year. That’s the combined ages of Fox News and MSNBC. It purports to be politically neutral, and it certainly is as much so as the three broadcast networks (damnation by faint praise). However, if you’re able to dig into the network’s on-line platform, you can often find links to progressive thinking. Such was recently the case as I found a link to a post by Paul Waldman of CNN, “The health care reality conservatives ignore.”

Waldman points out how liberally the conservatives criticize the Affordable Care Act. Whether or not there is any merit to their contention that it is flawed, they have no alternative to suggest save just repealing it. That means that we would go back to a system of virtually unfettered capitalism in which private insurance companies offered plans that would only elevate their profit margins, regardless of what kind of care of accessibility citizens were left with. As Waldman says:

In the American system, there are multiple points where companies do the rational thing: Extract as much money as possible from the system. That’s why an MRI costs three times as much in the U.S. as it does in France or Holland.

The rational thing for private enterprise to do is to increase profits; the rational thing for a government program like Medicare to do is to optimize care to as many people as possible at minimal cost. Which better serves the public? As Waldman says:

But people living under the oppression of those other governments’ systems must hate them, right? Wrong. The Commonwealth Fund recently released a study of health systems in 10 developed countries around the world which included a survey of satisfaction. America’s health system was the least popular, with only 25% of Americans saying it works well and the other 75% saying it should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt.

The most popular was the most socialized, Great Britain’s, with 63% saying it works well. You may remember that the opening ceremonies of the 2012 summer Olympics in London included a tribute to the National Health Service, so proud are Britons of their health system.

For decades, liberals [in the United States] have been working to devise policy solutions and create the political conditions for health care reform that would achieve secure, universal coverage. On the other hand, in the face of millions who can’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions and millions more who just can’t afford it, the conservative response was always, “Whatever.” The market spoke, and you lost. Too bad for you.

The Affordable Care Act can certainly be improved. But in health care – to paraphrase Ronald Reagan — the free market isn’t the answer to our problems. It is the problem.

What Mr. Waldman has to say is sensible and logical. I just have to wonder what some of his colleagues like Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, Don Lemon, John King, Dana Bash and Gloria Borger have to say about Waldman’s post. Do they say, “Yea, that really makes sense, and it’s exactly what I think, but I can’t say it on this network,” or do they say, “We have this radical guy working here who makes no sense; somebody should shut him down.” I’d prefer that it be the former because if they know that single-payer makes more sense than unfettered capitalism, then one or several of them may reach a tipping point at some time. When they do, they’ll ditch the false equivalency of points on the right and left and instead will be a news organization that better informs the public and raises the dialogue.