The time for single-payer system is now
I read in the Daily News (“Old Peking owner retired, but grateful,” Sept. 1) with a fair amount of chagrin about the closing of the Old Peking Restaurant in Moscow. The owner, Vinh “Sam” Huy Tran, is being forced by health reasons to close his operation of nearly 30 years. Together with his wife, Loan, they have served the Moscow community as long as I’ve lived here.
I’ve eaten at the Old Peking a number of times, and thought the food was great and the service excellent. Sam’s a good chef, and Loan, who waited on my table many times, provided gracious service.
The reason for Sam’s retirement, though, is not so wonderful. Sam has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, which, through a combination of bronchitis and emphysema, according to the Mayo Clinic, makes it difficult to breathe. Anyone who’s ever served as a front-line chef knows that it is a taxing job. Sam’s retirement is not from a lack of will. It’s from an ailment that literally prevents him from working.
When I read through the rest of the story – about Sam’s immigration to the U.S., the hard work and the willingness to sacrifice – the main thing that resonated was the iconic nature of the story. Sam landed in Las Vegas with pocket change, riding the Greyhound to Pullman, where he worked his fanny off to create a successful business that served this community.
Where I started becoming upset, though, was when I saw Sam couldn’t afford his own health care. His friend, Larry Lass, had set up a GoFundMe account for Sam, at gofundme.com/sam-tran, to help pay for some of those expenses. And while the community has been generous, and the funding goals have been met (I donated my column fee this week as well) there is no way, for a disease like COPD, that the money raised will do much more than serve as a drop in the bucket for future health care expenses. Tran’s current dilemma is a reflection of our national shame for having no single-payer national health insurance plan. He’s 58, and that’s still a long way from Medicare.
I’m on Facebook, and I’ve heard more than my share of discussion of folks saying “poor people don’t deserve health care.” Creeping socialism and all that – it’s exhausting. I believe a country that refuses to ensure its citizens are healthy is courting disaster.
Additionally, a country that cannot recognize a stable safety net is an important component of any entrepreneurial ecosystem is also headed for a train wreck.
In a rapidly changing world, we need more people willing to start new businesses rather than fewer. And single-payer national health insurance is by far the best way to make this happen.
I also went through the medical bankruptcy studies on the web to determine the depth of the problem of people going bankrupt because of medical bills.
Depending on who you read, the rate runs anywhere from 4 percent to 60 percent. In my mind, any percent is too great. I’ve seen the bake sale tables in our local airport from time to time, with relatives of loved ones sitting behind them, selling cookies to offset medical expenses. It casts a blanket of shame on us – not the sufferers – for lacking the courage to fix this problem.
In the article, Sam approaches all this with a positive attitude. If there were ever a character test for gratitude and contribution from recent immigrants, it would be Sam and Loan.
Despite Sam’s medical condition, they are moving forward with a trip back to Vietnam to visit relatives, and continuing with a positive attitude I can only hope to emulate. If anyone is deserving of national health care, it is them.
An election is coming up. Now is the time to tell our candidates the time for single-payer is now.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.