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Medicare for All!

Medicare for All snip
Illustration from Leadership Conference on Guaranteed Health Care website.

According to the World Health Organization, "The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance". Although many explanations are offered for this sobering fact, I keep going back to the observation that under the current system, there is a strong (short term) incentive for private insurance companies to deny health care to their customers. The more care they deny, the more money they make. As noted by the Leadership Conference on Guaranteed Health Care, "One third of every health care dollar is taken up by paperwork and other administrative costs of private insurance that have little to do with addressing disease or injury." One of those "administrative costs" is the profit of the insurance companies.

Every year, Congressman John Dingell (D, Mich.) introduces a bill to expand Medicare coverage to all Americans. Yesterday, the Leadership Conference on Guaranteed Health Care announced a campaign aimed at supporting the latest such bill, H.R. 676 (although this one is listed as sponsored by John Conyers). With nearly fifty advocacy, religious and labor groups represented, this is a diverse coalition covering a large portion of American society. It will take a large and well-coordinated campaign to overcome the massive lobbying investment by the health insurance industry if this bill is to become law. It now has 93 cosponsors in Congress.

More details on the proposal from an article at CQPOlitics:

Members of the coalition presented results of a study by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, a labor union, that predicts that expanding Medicare to cover everyone would lead to 2.6 million new jobs, $317 billion in new business and public revenue, and $44 billion in new tax revenue. The expansion would cost $63 billion a year, on top of the more than $2 trillion the United States already spends on health care.

The CQPolitics article ends with a quote from Donna Smith, an organizer for the nurses union:

“I think we have a tough, tough fight ahead,” she said. But the foundering economy and the government’s unprecedented actions in the last year to avoid further financial collapse open the door to all sorts of policy proposals, she says.

“It’s a different world today. I don’t think you can count out any kind of reform.”

The time is right to bring justice to the health care of all Americans. With our economy in turmoil, Medicare for All can be a bold, positive step. Although it will destroy the private health insurance industry, it will make US businesses competitive in international markets by removing health care costs from businesses. That is something even the Chamber of Commerce should get behind.

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Jim White

Jim White

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