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Julie Sokolow

Julie Sokolow is a musician, writer, and filmmaker based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the creator of the Healthy Artists documentary series, in which young creatives discuss their struggles with the American health care system.

March 25th, 2013 10:37 AM

Democrats and Republicans Join Forces for PA Single-Payer

Pennsylvania might be the next laboratory to experiment with universal health care. On March 19th 2013, Senator Jim Ferlo announced the reintroduction of SB400, a single-payer health care bill that if implemented, will grant comprehensive, affordable health care coverage to every citizen of the state. The catalyst for the bill’s reintroduction is a new study conducted by economist, Gerald Friedman PhD, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The study demonstrates that the single-payer plan can save PA $17 billion annually, while providing medical, dental, vision, prescription, and mental health care coverage to every Pennsylvanian.

Despite the powerful results of the study, the phrase “single-payer” is still misunderstood by many folks in PA, and the country at large. That is why nonprofits across America are working diligently to educate people about single-payer’s ability to provide justice in health care in addition to economic savings. One such nonprofit is Health Care 4 All PA, uniquely spearheaded by traditionally opposing forces: Liberal activist and doctor, Scott Tyson, and Republican businessman and former legislator, David Steil.

“This is the human rights issue of the 21st century,” says Scott Tyson MD, a physician and CEO of Pittsburgh’s largest independent pediatrics practice, providing care to over 26,000 children over Western PA. “I like to refer to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1966 quote, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’ I’ve made it a goal to help remedy this in my life time.”

While sympathetic to the human agenda, Republican single-payer advocate, former PA House Rep and owner of a manufacturing company, David Steil, prefers to focus on the fiscal agenda.

“A health care system dependent upon business as the primary provider is not sustainable. SB400 will make PA a favorable business state and create over 100,000 jobs, partly by relieving many of the health care costs businesses currently have to pay,” says Steil. “It is a fiscally responsible bill, so if you’re a fiscal conservative you have to like single-payer, because it costs less money.”

Together, Tyson and Steil are educating citizens and legislators across PA and their efforts are picking up steam. In addition to Senator Jim Ferlo’s enthusiastic sponsorship of the single-payer bill, Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia announced his co-sponsorship at a Medicaid Expansion hearing early this month. Just this past Tuesday, March 19th, a co-sponsorship memo was circulated.

“It’s often said that states are laboratories for innovation. Once we prove that this works and is cost-effective in PA, it will give federal legislators more courage to drive the national agenda forward,” Steil says. “Right now, citizens can help by educating themselves about single-payer, joining grassroots advocacy groups, and contacting legislators to demand the common sense solution we all deserve.”
To learn more about single-payer efforts in PA, including the full economic impact study, visit: healthcare4allpa.org

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