If Barack Obama had his druthers, he told an Albuquerque audience yesterday, he’d have a single-payer system for managing health care.  Unfortunately, the transition would throw a lot of HMO employees out of work, so Obama says we have to fix the present system instead.  Or, perhaps, just first:

Barack Obama said he would consider embracing a single-payer health-care system, beloved by liberals, as his plan for broader coverage evolves over time.

“If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system,” Obama told some 1,800 people at a town-hall style meeting on the economy. …

“Given that a lot of people work for insurance companies, a lot of people work for HMOs. You’ve got a whole system of institutions that have been set up,” he said at a roundtable discussion with women Monday morning after a voter asked, “Why not single payer?”

Can we breathe easier, knowing Obama doesn’t want to overthrow the American system of medicine?  Not really:

“People don’t have time to wait,” Obama said. “They need relief now. So my attitude is let’s build up the system we got, let’s make it more efficient, we may be over time—as we make the system more efficient and everybody’s covered—decide that there are other ways for us to provide care more effectively.”

“Other ways”, huh?  Perhaps Obama means that a better use of free-market principles for routine health care, using pre-tax HSAs and insurance for catastrophic coverage would force providers to compete as they do in non-covered elective medicine such as cosmetic surgery.  Maybe he means that reducing government mandates and reining in malpractice awards could assist in lowering the overall cost of medicine to insurers and consumers.

But I rather doubt it.

I’m not sure what success anyone can find from socialist policies that continues to encourage visions of government-run Utopias, but all of the evidence runs to the contrary.  Even the architect of Canada’s government monopoly on health care now advocates for private-sector providers.  The UK’s NHS has horror stories galore about lack of responsiveness and capacity for both medical and dental care.  In the US, one need only look at the VA to see how well a single-payer system would operate.

And yet, Barack Obama still thinks that Utopia can be realized through government-run societies.