There are many issues to be concerned about and many problems that cry for active citizen involvement these days. But few rival the long-term benefits we could enjoy if Mainers took the lead in adopting a single-payer system of health care. Saskatchewan led the way in Canada’s adoption of a single-payer system. Maine — or possibly New England — could do the same. Our current system of private health care sucks, if I may say so.

That is pretty much the conclusion of a 2013, 404-page study comparing our current system with 16 other countries. The 2013 study was compiled by a panel of experts from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. Covered on January 16, 2013 by The Washington Post in “America flunks its checkup,” the report presented some very grim findings. We Americans lead shorter lives than Western Europeans, Australians, Japanese and Canadians.

The report also found that the U.S. mortality rate is the highest of the 17 countries until Americans hit age 50. Then it drops to second highest until we hit 70. But by the time American seniors hit 80, we have some of the longest life expectancies in the world. Why? Mostly it is that, at age 65, Americans do enter a single-payer system … Medicare.

So, until you are fortunate enough to make it into Medicare, the reality is that we pay for one of the most expensive, least effective health care systems in the world. That is a bitter pill. But if we don’t accept it, we will never change it. It is time to demand our political elites muster the courage to “bite the bullet” and commit to single-payer. Everybody is covered; everybody contributes; everybody wins.

Andrew Stevenson, Belfast