Dinner or doctor? What a sick tradeoff!

Let’s unite to ensure that all Americans can get health care

Dr. Walid Faraj practices family medicine at Northern Valley Indian Health in Chico and is an active member of the California Physicians Alliance.

It is a sad day when the most prosperous nation in the world is forcing more and more of its senior citizens to make the desperate choice between buying necessary prescription drugs and putting food on the table.

As a local family medicine physician, I am a witness to the ill effects this situation has created. Asking our seniors, many of whom live on a limited and fixed income, to pay extra for their prescription drugs is unacceptable.

Why is the U.S. the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee comprehensive and equitable health care, not only to its seniors but to all of its citizens?

Forty-seven million Americans (a fourth of whom are children) are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. In spite of leaving so many out, the U.S. now spends 16 percent of our Gross National Product on health-care expenditures, more than double other industrialized countries that offer comprehensive health care to all their citizens.

In response to this crisis, lawmakers at both the federal and California state level have introduced proposals to create a single-payer national health-insurance system that would provide health care for all.

Single-payer measures such as HR 676 and SB 840 would allow financing the nation’s health-care expenditures for the entire population through a single government source. Such a system would save more than $300 billion per year in administrative costs alone. This would be enough to provide comprehensive coverage to all Americans.

A single-payer system is not socialized medicine, which refers to direct government ownership of hospitals/clinics, and daily operations of health-care delivery. In a single-payer system, the government collects and distributes money for health care, but does not interfere with the practice of medicine.

Furthermore, all Americans would receive comprehensive medical, dental and vision benefits, including all medically necessary services; rehabilitative, long-term, and home care; mental-health care; prescription drugs; medical supplies, and preventive- and public-health measures. As a result, the majority of Americans support such a system.

The public will is present. The proposals for such a system have already been written by lawmakers. Now it is up to us to help push this prudent legislation through. Concerned citizens, medical professionals, and business and religious leaders should unite around this single-payer movement so that, finally, all Americans can receive quality health care that is economically sound and morally acceptable.

We must not forget that health care is a human right, not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.