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Larry Summers: It Is Good That America Didn’t Adopt Single-Payer in the 70’s

Larry Summers

Larry Summers

In an op-ed about gridlock former Obama adviser Larry Summers actually said it was a good thing the United States didn’t adopt a universal single-payer health care system decades ago. From Summers’s op-ed:

There were probably too few checks and balances as the United States entered the Vietnam and Iraq wars. There should have been more checks and balances in place before the huge tax cuts of 1981, 2001 and 2003, or to avert the many unfunded entitlement expansions of the past few decades. Most experts would agree that it is a good thing that politics thwarted the effort to establish a guaranteed annual income in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as the effort to establish a “single-payer” health-care system during the 1970s.

This is a truly remarkable statement from someone who served in the Obama administration when they were pushing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Obama administration used the fact that tens of thousand of Americans die every year due to a lack of health insurance as one of the main justifications to sell ACA. Using Summers’s own logic he is basically saying it is a good thing hundreds of thousand of Americans died because of a lack of health insurance for the past several decades.

This probably helps to explain why Obamacare ended up such a poorly designed law. One of Obama’s top advisers at the time didn’t just think single-payer was politically infeasible, he actively opposed the policy. He thought decades without a universal health care system was preferable to one based on single-payer.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at