11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

If We Can Nationalize Banks, Why Not Health Care?

On the heels of reports Thursday that the Bush Administration is considering taking part ownership of U.S. banks, it's time to ask, why can't we have a similar approach for our collapsing healthcare system.

Clearly, the proposal to partially nationalize some banks comes as our financial system continues to plunge off the cliff. But there's not a more critical emergency than in our healthcare system. In homes and hospitals across America, our healthcare system is dying a quiet death. The millions of Americans who endure their pain away from the spotlight of Wall Street or the glare of TV lights, deserve sweeping systemic solutions as well.

Consider that on the same day our government moved to take over collapsing banks, the U.S. Census Bureau released data that 16 percent of Americans under 65 are uninsured, and in some areas, like South Florida, the number is as high as 30 percent.

The news isn't so great for those with insurance either. Another report out today in the Wall Street Journal, noted that employers are expected to increase co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs to workers by more than 10 percent next year--at a time when one in five Americans already self-ration care for which they are "insured" by skipping medications, doctor's visits, vaccinations, and other needed care.

If we can bail out the financial speculators and the banking CEOs, why can't we do the same for the tens of millions of Americans facing bankruptcy and healthcare calamity due to the meltdown of our healthcare system?

Through the simple, cost effective approach of improving and expanding Medicare to cover everyone, the U.S. could effectively nationalize the financing of healthcare delivery, a single-payer system, while leaving intact the most private system of hospitals and doctors.

Notably, the reports from Washington followed the announcement that Great Britain is also moving to a partial nationalization of banks.

As the British announcement, and the free fall in markets in Europe and Asia make apparent, the financial implosion is global. But residents in nearly all those other countries at least have less worries about their health security.

This summer, a report from the Commonwealth Fund found the U.S. ranks last among 19 comparable industrial nations in preventable deaths -- 101,000 fewer Americans would die annually if the U.S. matched the benchmarks of those other countries. The main difference is all those other nations have a nationalized or single-payer healthcare system, such as our U.S. Medicare.

If it's good enough for every other industrialized country, if it's good enough for the speculators and CEOs who have mortgaged our financial security, it ought to be good enough for the rest of America.