Health Care for All: Why We Need a New Prescription

By Scott Tucker
Originally published on

The right-wing assault on Obamacare is a distraction, but the “progressive” (or rather party line) defense of the Affordable Care Act is also a dead end. While the tea party and MoveOn descend to mud wrestling, Dr. Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Program is not just staking out the moral high ground in the debate on health care. He is also making the practical case for the kind of health care we, the people, both deserve and can afford.

McCanne quotes passages from the daily news, political debates, and medical journals, and adds his running commentary. These columns are collectively titled Quote of the Day, and can be found archived at the website of PNHP. His columns are also available by email subscription.

McCanne’s daily comments on health care range over both present policies and the possibilities of comprehensive reform. He is helping to build the bridge from here to there, but he is not pointing to some utopian island over the horizon. Medicare, for example, offers one flawed but real foundation for health care justice. We need a single payer system, but we also need a wider network of community health clinics, and health maintenance programs in schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. If we limit our vision of health care reform only to the programs that career politicians deem “pragmatic,” then we are placing their careers above our own lives.

McCanne’s decency and public spirit shine through his work, though he was almost self-effacing when I first asked him to consider an interview. For myself, and many others, McCanne is our translator of choice when we try to orient ourselves in health care policy debates. He received his B.A. at the UC Riverside in 1959 and his M.D. from the UC San Francisco in 1963. He served two years as a medical officer in the U.S. Army, and then practiced as a family physician for more than 30 years in San Clemente, Calif. He has served as chief of staff of his community hospital and as chairman of the board of a community bank. He served as president of PNHP for two terms, in 2002 and 2003, and is currently senior health policy fellow for PNHP. Every good cause involves a division of labor, and McCanne is a daily laborer for health care justice through PNHP and through his public talks and writing.



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