Photo courtesy of California Nurses Association.

Photo courtesy of California Nurses Association.

Some nurse activists, along with like-minded physicians, celebrated National Nurses Week by getting arrested at a Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care reform. They were protesting the meeting’s lack of representation for those who support a single-payer health care system.

Why does this matter? We’re hearing a lot lately about related issues like the intensifying debate over cutting health care costs,  but most Americans, including nurses, simply don’t have time to follow the intricacies of health care reform—even if they’re well aware that over 45 million Americans don’t have guaranteed life insurance and even if (as nurses and as patients) they agree that something needs to be done about this ever-worsening problem.

Depending on who you listen to, the single-payer system is either a fringe notion that threatens to undermine both the Republicans and the Democrats who are seeking (each in their own way) a more pragmatic, market-driven revision of our health care system—or it’s the only truly equitable and feasible system possible as costs soar; as the influence of the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and medical device manufacturers remains strong; and as the recession pushes more and more Americans out of work and into medical debt.

But some increasingly vocal individuals and organizations believe that the single-payer option is not receiving the mainstream press coverage it deserves, or being allowed a voice among the many stakeholders in the ongoing reform process. At least one media watchdog group has come out in support of claims being made about unfair press coverage:

Single-payer–a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada’s current system)–polls well with the public, who preferred it two-to-one over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper.

Here are the “Top 10 Reasons for Enacting a Single Payer Healthcare System,” according to the California Nurses Association.

Should those who advocate a single-payer system at least be allowed a seat at the table?

Perhaps more important, do nurses, and nursing associations—whatever model of reform, if any, they may support—have a role to play in shaping what our health care system will look like in the years to come?

Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

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