Census Data 'Starkly Illustrates' the Time for Single Payer Is Now

The latest U.S. Census Bureau data clearly illustrates that the need for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health program has never been more urgent, the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) said Tuesday.

The census found that 29 million people went uninsured last year, including 3.7 million children, and that deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have continued to rise well after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into law in 2010.

The data “starkly illustrates how our inefficient, private-insurance-based system of financing care is fundamentally incapable of providing universal coverage,” said pediatrician and PNHP president Dr. Robert Zarr. “The fact that 29 million people remain uninsured—a figure that won’t change much over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office—is totally unacceptable to me as a physician.”

“Studies show that lack of insurance is linked to a higher mortality rate. Being uninsured is lethal, and currently leads to tens of thousands of deaths annually,” Zarr said, citing statistics from the Congressional Budget Office (pdf) and recent PNHP research (pdf) into rates of uninsurance and mortality.

“That tens of millions of people will remain uninsured under our current arrangements is perhaps the most compelling argument for why our nation needs to swiftly adopt a single-payer system.”
—Dr. Robert Zarr, PNHP

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Zarr noted that the ACA did help lower rates of uninsured people by about 41 percent, which he said “could only be welcomed, since research shows that having some kind of health coverage is better than none.”

However, the decrease in those rates slowed dramatically last year, with a change of only 1.3 percentage points since 2014.