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Guest Opinion: Scare tactics aimed at single-payer health system By GENE FENDERSON Ezra Klein, a prominent health care and political journalist/blogger was recently interviewed by Mike Dennison, a reporter at the Gazette State Bureau. The interview addressed the hearings on health care reform being held by Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Charles Grassley of Iowa, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee chairman and the ranking member. The most important question in the interview was, "Shouldn't a single-payer or Medicare-for-all system of universal coverage be considered?" Klein replied: "When the politicians say, 'We're going to take what you have now away and you can trust the federal government to do this [health care] now' - that scares the hell out of people." Old scare tactics at work So the old scare tactics on health care reform are still around. But think about it. If Congress won't even consider a single-payer health care system, what kind of a "system" will our nation and we, as individuals, end up with? I am convinced the outcome will be even more complicated and detrimental than what we have now, a hodgepodge on top of an existing hodge-podge of insurance plans. In other words, no plan and certainly no "system." You will continue to get health insurance coverage through your employment, which will make our employers less competitive in world markets and create more job losses. Or you will be forced to buy insurance individually. If you cannot afford individual coverage, you will be given a public subsidy to get it. Remember, you will probably change jobs seven times in your career, like most Americans. So you may have to buy some kind of bridging coverage in between those jobs and pay the full premium, including what your employer paid before. If you're broke, you'll have to prove to the system you need some financial help. If you don't get coverage or can't figure out the system, you'll end up in the emergency room. Just like now, everyone will pay for it - through their taxes or through increases in their health insurance premiums to help health care providers offset the losses of giving care to the uninsured. Will you be able to keep your private plan if you move across the nation? Will your plan coverage be the same? Will each state have the same coverage? What if you move within the state? A Medicare plan for all A Medicare-type plan; single-payer for all; everybody in, nobody out approach is efficient and effective. It will save $400 billion for the American taxpayer every year, instead of spending the $700 billion Baucus and Grassley helped set aside for health care reform in the recent federal budget. Savings from single-payer can be used to help adequately cover the 50 million people who are uninsured and the 70 million who are underinsured. The single-payer plan would concentrate on prevention and offer free choice of doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. It would eliminate in-network, out-of-network, deductibles, exclusions and co-pays. According to recent polls, the majority of the American people, including a majority of doctors, nurses and health economists want a single-payer plan. Why don't Baucus and Grassley, the senators elected to represent us? Call them. E-mail them. Fax them. Tell them America needs single payer. To lower the current 17.4 percent of U.S. gross national product spent on health care to 9 percent of GNP like the rest of the industrialized world, we must have single-payer health care. Gene Fenderson of Helena was a board member for a Montana Taft-Hartley Health Care Trust Fund for 25 years and is a founding member of Montanans for Single-Payer, www.montanansforsinglepayer.org. Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.