As their August recess begins, members of Congress are returning home to drum up support for pet projects. Brooklyn and Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner is adding his voice to the debate over revamping the nation's health care system by proposing a single-payer system comparable to that in Canada, England and elsewhere. He told WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show that elderly Americans and veterans already benefit from a single-payer system -- through Medicare and the Veteran's Administration.
"Frankly, they do a pretty good job. They’re not perfect, and there are gaps. But their combined overhead is about 3%, compared to a 30% combined overhead and profit-taking by the insurance companies."
Weiner says he envisions a program that lets people choose their own doctors and continue buying private insurance, if they prefer more ‘deluxe’ coverage.
"It makes sense because it’s simple. People understand how Medicare works and they understand that we should be trying to figure out ways to take the amount of money that we dump into the pockets of the insurance companies and put it into health care."
Weiner says single-payer would not mean a loss of choice when it comes to choosing a doctor.
"All of us have one payer. It’s just whether we give the money to our insurance company, who then gives it back to us grudgingly when we’re sick, or we give it to the government in the form of Medicare. So it doesn’t change the amount of choice you would have."
Weiner says having the federal government pay for all health care expenses would reduce administrative waste, and save money.
Weiner said he hasn't hashed out all the details of his proposal, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised him a floor vote.
Listen to the complete interview with Congressman Weiner here