We're about to begin the debate on health care reform in the US, and its well past time, but we've left the most promising reform of all off the table. The reform in question is a single-payer health care system, and the most recent Bill Moyers Journal program covers that omission in some detail.
The bugaboo that has kept us from real consideration of the overwhelming advantages of single-payer health care has been the phrase "socialized medicine", but that objection is an attempt to create fear of something there is no reason to be afraid of. As has been said before (and as a couple of Moyers' interview subjects allude to), when most of us (in suburban and urban areas, anyway) turn on the tap and fresh, potable water comes out, we are reaping the benefits of a "socialized" water system, and when that water goes down the drain and doesn't end up in the back yard, it's because of a "socialized" sewage system. When we put our trash on the curb in most parts of the country and someone takes it way for us, we are enjoying the services of a "socialized" trash removal system. When we are in trouble and need a policeman, we call for the help of a "socialized" police protection system, and when our houses catch fire and someone risks his life to put the fire out, that fireman is working for a "socialized" fire department.
All of those solutions are "socialized" because the most efficient and fair way to solve those problems is through community action. Everyone needs those goods, and the best way to provide them is through public investment and management. The same thing is true for medicine, and what we have now in the medicine world is analogous to a system in which numerous providers of water are competing to get us water for a fee. The problem is that the inefficiencies are killing us by the thousands, the "water" we're "drinking" isn't potable, and a small cadre of powerful insurance companies are getting absurdly rich by arbitraging the availability of health care.
It's a situation that has to change, and there's a very real possibility that the debate we're about to have won't change it, due to the self-interest of a few very powerful companies, who own enough lawmakers to prevent that debate from happening honestly. Moyers' attempt to uncover that situation is yet another demonstration of why the man is a national treasure. If this week's Journal will run again on your TV, watch it. If it won't run again on TV, watch it on the web - it's an eye-opener.