Opinion: One Step Closer to a Single-Payer Health Care System

A Rancho Bernardo man says Americans owe Chief Justice John Roberts a "thank you."

By Charlie Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act is good news for all America and soon some 30 million uninsured Americans will begin to see the benefits of the Act that millions of others are already enjoying. That will include some 5 million Californians who currently have no health insurance.

Young adults are now assured they can stay on their parents' insurance coverage until age 26. For women, insurance companies must cover preventive care like mammograms, crucial for protection against cancer. Seniors under Medicare Part D have already saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drug bills and these costs savings will continue to build through the years with the entire “donut hole” eliminated by the year 2020. It also means lower Medicare costs thereby increasing the projected life of the funds thanks to the Affordable Care Act. So seniors have a lot at stake in both protecting and promoting the many benefits the Act has to offer.

Enactment of the Affordable Care Act and the long awaited Supreme Court ruling means the end of insurance company power to cap the amount of care a person can receive during their lifetime and prevents insurance companies from canceling coverage. It strengthens and protects Medicare by increasing penalties for fraud. For young parents, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and the Act ends insurance company’s power to raise premium rates without justification.

The Act provides for building and improving hundreds of community health care centers. It prevents insurance companies from charging women more for coverage than they charge men and prevents overcharging those who need care the most. Beginning in the year 2014, workers will begin receiving tax credits to help in purchasing health care coverage. Also, beginning in 2014, discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions will no longer be allowed.

There is even a provision for rebates from health insurance companies included in the Act. Those insured will receive reimbursement from health insurance providers who exceed spending on their CEOs and promotional ads. Insurance companies must apply 80 percent of premium benefits cost toward benefits. If 80 percent is not spent on benefits, that money must be returned to the employer or to the employee and if the employers are the recipients they must apply the overage they receive to a reduction in premium cost to the employee.

Getting the Affordable Care Act passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court was difficult and often a bitter struggle. Our country was not the only industrial country to experience long and difficult struggles to obtain a national health care program. Canada is well-known for its socialized health care program, described as a model for the world. Canada’s struggle for adoption of its health care program started back in 1947 in Saskatchewan. There were bitter divides in Canada as insurance companies and doctors resisted the change and doctors went on a three week strike. But years later in 1984, the Canadian parliament unanimously approved the Canada Health Act.

Canadian citizens, including doctors, have since come to love their health care much like we love our Medicare. Why do Canadians love their health care? I suspect it’s because it works by providing health security to all Canadians and the Canadian plan costs about half that of our current system. The history of Canada’s long struggle to adopt the Canada Health Act and its overwhelming acceptance by Canadians should serve as an excellent guide for all Americans as we learn to appreciate the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act with hope that one day soon we will improve on the Act by adopting a single-payer system.

Our struggle for a national health care system also began in the late 1940s with President Harry Truman urging Congress to adopt a national health care plan for the American people. Though Truman’s efforts failed, the cause he promoted resulted in the enactment of Medicare in 1965, some 15 years later. Since then Americans have come to love Medicare just as the Canadians have come to love the Canadian Health Care Act and there is little doubt that the success of Medicare led to the enactment by Congress of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Finally, I feel we owe Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, a vote of thanks for finding a way to agree with Congress that the Affordable Care Act is indeed constitutionally sound. Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, for helping preserve the integrity of our U.S. Constitution. The Affordable Care Act will serve the American people well for many years to come. 

Charlie Williams is Chairman of the Field Mobilization Committee for the Alliance for Retired Americans and former Midwest States Political Director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers AFL-CIO-CLC.

guy cargulia July 07, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Thank you Mr Williams for a thoughtful and engaging article. I firmly believe, as well, this is a step towards universal healthcare for all. My experiences with the health care system make me a firm believer in universal healthcare. Guy Cargulia
Tony Padilla July 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Charlie the citizenry should thank Supreme Court Justice John Roberts because I do too commend him for his bravery to do the right thing for millions who desperately need health coverage. In Texas about 357,000 young adult Texans have gained health coverage since September 2010 because of the federal health care law. The Tea Party right-wing-conservatives spin the outcome, Justice Roberts did it for the elderly, those that can't be insured because of previous conditions and those that cannot afford to pay a catastrophic illness. Upholding the Obama Care Legislation is indeed a closer step to Universal Care which is long overdue. I am a senior and I do not want to be the last generation of seniors to receive proper medical care but I want to ensure that also Social Security is there for them and for those youngsters being told that there will not be there for them. Politicians want to get their hand on Social Security and Medicare so they can give their Wall Street cronies the funds to gamble casino style. Those programs are not broken but are robust. Like workers earned-pensions, the industry wants to get rid of pensions so workers invest on 401-k for Wall Street so they can gamble with those funds as the big banks are doing with derivatives, student loans and mortgages as in a pool of sharks. Let us clean house in November. Get your family and friends out to vote for President Obama or suffer the consequences of loosing benefits for our most vulnerable citizens.
AGorman July 12, 2012 at 05:05 PM
All Americans should be pleased with the Supreme Court ruling upholding the ACA. Although just a step in the right direction toward true universal health care it is a long overdue step. The first serious call for a national health care plan came 100 years ago from Teddy Roosevelt. The ACA is also basically the 20 year old Republican counter offer to the more progressive Clinton health care plan of 1993. Even the current presumptive Republican nominee's RomneyCare plan is a single state version of the ACA. Now that we have a form of universal health insurance it should be time to work on reducing the cost of health care in America which is double the cost of health care in other industrialized nations. Unfortunately it looks like we'll be forced to waste the next few years beating back further counterattacks from health care opponents like the Republicans in Congress who now disown their plans of years past. I'm not sure that I can go so far as to actually thank Chief Justice Roberts for his decision though. I would think that "helping preserve the integrity of our U.S. Constitution" would be an absolute requirement of office for a Supreme Court Justice rather than merely an occasional accomplishment. Decisions like Citizens United which awarded the HUMAN right of unlimited free $$speech$$ to soulless, conscienceless corporations, and where Roberts excused his judicial abdication as simply judicial restraint, are outright affronts to the integrity of the Constitution.
Monte July 13, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Thanks Charlie, for reminding us of the myriad benefits of the ACA and for detailing the individual provisions that a vast majority of Americans overwhelmingly support. How strong support for the specific provisions of a law could be twisted into weak support, even opposition, to the law as a whole is proof of the power of directed, well-funded misinformation. Like Hitler said "the bigger the lie, the more likely it will be believed." As Canada was enacting health care for all its citizens in 1984, America was embarking on a different, reckless path of handing our economy on a silver platter to rich and powerful corporate and financial interests in the mistaken belief that they would return the favor by building a stronger, better economy to benefit all of us. The ensuing decades revealed that our generosity would not just go unrepaid but lead to more and more demands by the greediest among us for increasing access and authority to plunder our economy for their own personal benefit. The subsequent economic meltdown of four years ago saw millions of Americans losing their jobs and their health insurance with it, followed by losing their homes and, ultimately for many, their faith in the American dream. Over the same period Republicans continued to expand on their earlier discovery that fooling "some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time" was a successful tactic to win political office and defeat measures that benefit the American people.


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