Cheers for Dr. Deb Richter, and All Who Work Toward a Single-Payer Health Care System

Gary Kopycinski

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

I understand more now, after paying attention to the health care debate over the last few years.

What happened in Congress last year was a start, but not the solution to our health care insurance problems in the United States.

We must rid ourselves of the for-profit health insurance industry. Every other industrialized nation in the world has not-for-profit health insurance, either managed by the government, or regulated the same.

They all pay higher taxes, but pay far, far less than we do in the long run.

Because it’s cheaper. Everyone paying into one insurance pool is cheaper, and more efficient.

Fight with a health insurance company for payment recently? How much are your parents or grandparents paying out-of-pocket, on a fixed income, for medications each month? How much do you pay?

Oh, and all of these citizens of all these other countries with single-payer or regulated non-profit health insurance live longer. Check the stats at the World Health Organization.

Less financial stress, perhaps, even through a global recession?

I applaud Dr. Deb Richter, and others like her:

Many people move to Vermont in search of a slower pace; Dr. Deb Richter came in 1999 to work obsessively toward a far-fetched goal.

She wanted Vermont to become the first state to adopt a single-payer health care system, run and paid for by the government, with every resident eligible for a uniform benefit package. So Dr. Richter, a buoyant primary care doctor from Buffalo who had given up on New York’s embracing such a system, started lining up speaking engagements and meeting with lawmakers, whom she found more accessible than their New York counterparts.

“I wrote a letter to the editor, and the speaker of the House called me up to talk about it,” Dr. Richter, 56, recalled recently. “It was astounding. In New York, I couldn’t even get an appointment with my legislator.”

Twelve years later, Dr. Richter will watch Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, sign a bill on Thursday that sets Vermont on a path toward a single-payer system — the nation’s first such experiment — thanks in no small part to her persistence. Though scores of people pushed for the bill, she was the most actively involved doctor — “the backbone,” Mr. Shumlin has said, of a grass-roots effort that helped sway the Democratic Legislature to pass it this spring even as other states were suing to block the less ambitious federal health care law.

Read more at the New York Times