Tuesday, February 9, 2016

‘Medicare for All’ Is Affordable Care Act’s Logical Next Step

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attacked Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” as a plan that will end the Affordable Care Act (AFC), commonly known as Obamacare, and the contentious congressional fight that will certainly follow is not worth the effort. Other than some tweaks here and there, Clinton will not change AFC.

“Medicare for All” is different from AFC. AFC relies heavily on private insurance companies for funding and delivery of healthcare. “Medicare for All” is a single payer healthcare system, sometimes referred to as universal healthcare, national healthcare, or the public option. Single payer refers to how it’s funded, organized, and administered by the government, but relies on private healthcare insurance to deliver.

Sanders recognizes that the healthcare industry’s primary responsibility is not to its customers but to its shareholders. Clinton, who once supported a single payer system, does as well, but either is unwilling to fight the hard fight on behalf of all Americans, or is unduly obligated to Wall Street and the oligarchic healthcare system.

The Republican led Congress has tried over and over again to repeal AFC, but have not proposed recommendations or any alternative to make it better. Sanders’ single-payer plan, “Medicare for All,” builds on AFC, a plan initially proposed as a single-payer system, but when enacted essentially caved into the interests of the healthcare insurance companies. Sanders believes that AFC has not gone far enough to provide affordable adequate healthcare for all. The “Medicare for All” act is a logical next step to make Obamacare better.

“Medicare for All” will guarantee healthcare services, including eye and dental care, for everyone regardless of whether they are rich or poor. With his plan, no longer will Americans have to choose between getting healthcare and putting food on the table, or have to declare bankruptcy because they cannot afford to pay their hospital bill. No longer will Americans need to depend on private sector healthcare insurers to cover the cost of their healthcare needs.

Moreover, Sanders’ plan will cut health care costs, lower prescription drug prices, put money back in consumers' pockets, create jobs, and addresses a major cause of income inequality.

Former United States Secretary of Labor, currently Professor of Public Policy at Berkley, Robert Reich suggests how it might be implemented:

“Initially: A single-payer plan would be offered as an option on state insurance exchanges (similar to the “public option” idea that was briefly considered but then rejected by the designers of Obamacare). Assuming that the single-payer plan’s premiums, co-payments, and deductibles would be lower than those of private for-profit insurance, and its benefits higher – a reasonable assumption in that the single-payer plan wouldn’t be paying for advertising, marketing, billing, and distributions to shareholders – it would become a steadily more popular option. But no one would be forced to take it. Private for-profit insurance plans would offer the best deals they could. The structure of Obamacare would be maintained -- unless or until so many Americans opted for the single-payer plan that the private for-profits decided to discontinue their own.

“Granted, getting to this second step would entail a political fight. It’s also true that the current crop of Republicans would like to scrap even the first step. But Republicans won’t get closer to succeeding because Americans gain access to an even better plan than they have now. Quite the opposite: It will be harder for Republicans [Clinton and others] to argue against even lower costs, better coverage, and greater simplicity.”

© Copyright 2016 Horatio Green