House Subcommittee Considers Single Payer Health Care System


House Subcommittee Considers Single Payer Health Care System

The House Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee of the Education and Labor Committee recently held a hearing to examine the option of a single payer health care system amongst the many proposals for health care reform currently being discussed by legislators.

Much of the debate was inspired by a bill that would establish a single payer system proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.). Rep. Conyers’ bill, The United States National Health Care Act (H.R. 676), would establish a publicly financed, privately administered universal health care system with single payer financing, based on improvements and expansion of the existing Medicare program.

Although Subcommittee Chairman Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) and most of the witnesses expressed support for a single payer system, Ranking Member John Kline (R-Minn.) was more critical of the proposal, saying “creating a new, one-size-fits-all health care system modeled on Medicare is a recipe for disaster.” Rep. Kline also cautioned the committee to search for the best health care reform plan, not just the most expeditious one.

Most witnesses before the committee supported a single payer system, stating that decreasing administrative costs and implementing cost controls would be easier in a single payer system. Dr. Walter Tsou of Physicians for a National Health Program also testified that a single payer system would have benefits beyond the health care sector as entrepreneurs would not have to make the choice to not start their own business because they were afraid of losing their employer-sponsored health insurance.

David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute was the only witness on the panel opposed to a single payer system. Gratzer testified that Canada implemented a single payer system in the 1960s, and that many Canadians are unhappy with their system now. Gratzer instead recommended more consumer driven plans, and that Congress come up with a uniquely American solution instead of basing reforms on Canadian or European plans.

Read testimony from the hearing on the committee’s Web site.

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