By Richard Haugh
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Consumer activist and corporate gadfly Ralph Nader urged adoption of a single-payer system of delivering health care to Americans last week when he spoke to an overflow audience in a club room at the University of Colorado’s football stadium.
Since universal health coverage was first proposed by President Harry Truman, Nader said, more than a million people have died needlessly because they couldn’t afford health insurance.
“Eighteen thousand people die every year in this country because they can’t afford health insurance. Never mind health care — they can’t afford health insurance,” Nader said. “That’s more than six 9/11s every year.”
Nader spoke April 16 as part of a class being taught by Hank Brown, former U.S. senator and congressman from Colorado and former CU president. Brown’s course, “The Politics of Health Care Reform,” began early this year and has featured lectures by health care policy experts with varying experiences and viewpoints.
Topics have ranged all over the board, including financing for federal health programs, the role of private insurance, biomedical ethics, the Canadian health care system and the debate over national health insurance.
Nader advocated a health care system that guarantees coverage and treatment to every person, paid for
and administered by the federal government. He said such a system would promote improved quality of
care and provide coverage for the nearly 50 million uninsured in the United States.
A single-payer system also would reduce administrative inefficiency created by the need for the nation’s providers to conduct business with more than 1,500 insurance companies. He estimated that $225 billion to $250 billion each year is wasted through inefficiency and fraud in medical billing.
“That’s a big figure, even by AIG-executive standards,” he said.
Nader called for community-based health clinics to provide primary care, staffed by employed doctors and directed by boards of trustees composed of lay people from the community. Large regional hospitals with specialist physicians would be organized to treat complex medical conditions.
“With a single-payer system — everybody in, nobody out — you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring
out who’s in and who’s out,” Nader said.
Compared with other industrialized countries of the world, Nader said, the United States is doing a poor job of taking care of its citizens, and that needs to change before more people die needlessly.
“No one in Canada, Luxembourg, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland or Italy dies because they can’t afford health insurance,” he said. “They’re insured from the moment they’re born.”