Ky. voices: Single-payer plan for state's health and economy

There is a country where 50 million people wake up every morning fearing that a health problem will take away their lives. Is this a country in Africa or Asia? What is the source of their anxiety? Malaria? Cholera?

The place is the United States of America. The source of people's fear is a lack of health insurance. They fear that if they become ill or injured they might lose their homes, their life savings, and everything they've worked for.

The fearful are not ne'er-do-well parasites on society, or in far away urban slums. They are our friends and neighbors. This was poignantly portrayed by Jacalyn Carafagno ("Frustrated by a health care system tied to jobs," May 22).

It's a national embarrassment and a disgrace for the wealthiest country on the planet.

We spend more on health care per capita than any other major country, but we don't get what we pay for, and not all of us share in the benefits. The 2011 World Health Organization statistics rank the U.S. 34th in life expectancy and 46th in child mortality.

Wait, you say, we have the best specialists and medical technology anywhere. People come here from around the planet for treatment. Yes, we do have the best medical facilities in the world—if one is rich enough to afford them or has great health insurance.

Welcome to the land of the free and the home of the brave. If you are wealthy, you are free to ignore the suffering of others. If you are one of the fifty million without health insurance, you are free to be brave and pray you don't get sick. You are free to spend your child's college fund on medical bills. If you are not wealthy, you are free to pass up an entrepreneurial opportunity and stay at your old job in order to keep your health insurance.

Senator David Williams says that he will get government out of our lives and fight to do away with Obamacare. He would encourage and support the health care status quo, the employer-based for-profit system.

One in four Kentucky adults under the age of 65 has no health insurance (healthy-ky.org).

If Williams gets his way, the 680,000 uninsured Kentuckians might consider moving to Vermont, which is in the process of establishing a single-payer plan. Vermont governor Peter Shumlin says, "We want a system where health care will follow the individual, and not be a requirement of the employer, which we think will be a huge jobs creator. [We want to use] health care dollars to make us healthier, not enrich insurance companies, [promote] inefficiency, waste, and the current fee-for-service system, which bills providers based on how much service they do."

Kentucky has had limited success with economic development. Why not establish a single-payer health care system that would make Kentuckians healthier, make Kentucky a leader in health care, and provide the foundation for the growth of small businesses?

If only we had the political leadership, Kentucky might show the nation how to restore its health, its economy, and its pride.