An Easier Way To Get To Universal Health Care

Now is the time to push for better health care. Here are three modest, winnable first steps.


Published:

Groups such as Indivisible and People’s Action deserve a lot of credit for the Republican failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The loud pushback from citizens at lawmakers’ town halls and elsewhere demonstrated that taking away millions of people’s health care insurance could be political suicide.

The upside to all the political drama was months of discussion over what kind of health care Americans really need. Our appetites have been whetted. We now face a historic opportunity to move forward on the goal of universal health care coverage.

The drums are beating loudly in progressive circles for a single-payer system, such as “Medicare for All.” Others, such as Paul Krugman and Michael Tomasky in their columns in the New York Times, caution that “Medicare for All” is a bet we’re unlikely to win at this time. Under a “Medicare for All” plan, the government, rather than insurance companies, pays medical bills with our tax money. Krugman and Tomasky explain that Americans do not like their taxes raised, that many are happy with their employer-provided insurance, and that when you get the entire health care industry lined up against you (the insurance industry, Big Pharma, the American Medical Association, and others) you’re likely to get clobbered.

So what are the opportunities, given the political polarization of our time?

A first step is damage control. The Democrats, together with the more open-minded Republicans, must shore up federal subsidies to prevent the insurance markets from collapsing or premiums rising to levels unaffordable by millions.

After that, three possibilities are becoming politically ripe for action.

Drug Price Control

Americans in both parties are angry about high drug prices. Kaiser Foundation polls show across-the-board support for lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Martin Shkreli was dubbed by media “the most hated man in America” when, as head of Turing pharmaceuticals, he jacked up the price of the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim, from $13.50 to $750. Mylan evoked outrage by increasing the price of the EpiPen by 400 percent. The pharmaceutical companies, of course, will try to crush any effort to control prices and undermine their profits. They succeeded in defeating California’s 2016 drug price control ballot initiative. Next, Ohio will try in November. But insurance companies have reason to like such controls. Some doctors and hospitals may like it. And millions of consumers will like it a lot.

The Public Option

We now have insurance exchange markets where insurance companies are reluctant to do business. That provides the context to offer the option of the government offering the insurance—essentially allowing people to buy into Medicare. Insurance companies might fight it—rightly seeing it as a slippery slope to a system with a single payer. But lawmakers facing constituencies (often in predominantly rural, red states) with no good choices to offer them may find this a move they could back.

Lower The Age For Medicare

Politically, such a move would have built-in fans—those who become newly eligible or close to it. But how about all those industry players that would crush a “Medicare for All” platform? While “Medicare for All” eliminates the main function of insurance companies, lowering the age by just a bit, to 55 or 60, may not create such a big backlash. The reason is that older people are more expensive to insure than younger people. So getting the 55-64 age group out of the insurance pool has advantages to insurance companies, especially with ACA rules that say they can’t charge older people more than three times the amount charged to younger people.

These are three modest reforms. Why settle for these when what many want is “Medicare for All”? Physician and author Atul Gawande provides a useful historical analysis.

Just before the development of the Affordable Care Act, The New Yorker published Gawande’s insightful article “Getting There from Here.” In it he points out that other countries got to universal health care coverage not by some bold overhaul of their existing system, but by building on what they had.

For Great Britain, that meant a fully socialized system. Because of the massive expansion of government health care during World War II, by 1948, when they instituted national health care, a government run system was already in place. The shift was hardly even noticed. France, in contrast, had no public health infrastructure in place after World War II. They had  a network of mostly labor- and employer-backed non-profit insurance companies with premiums paid through payroll fees. Gawande notes: “Today, [the French] Sécurité Sociale provides payroll-tax-financed insurance to all French residents, primarily through a hundred and forty-four independent, not-for-profit, local insurance funds.” Switzerland, which Gawande notes had a robust private insurance industry, got to universal coverage in 1994 when it required “every resident to purchase private health insurance and provided subsidies to limit the cost to no more than about ten per cent of an individual’s income.”

Each country arrived at universal health care by improving on its unique system.

Despite our unruly political context, large numbers of Americans can agree on things. The mobilizations to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act showed the power of concentrated citizen action even in a money-soaked political system. Now is the moment to push hard on advances likely to have broad public support.

Updated August 22, 2017, to clarify that ACA rules prohibit charging older people more than three times the amount charged to younger people.

Fran Korten is former executive director of YES! Magazine. She is a contributing editor for YES!, writing about opportunities to advance a progressive agenda in politics, economics, and the environment. She lives on Bainbridge Island, WA with her husband, author David Korten. Follow her on Twitter @fkorten.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Why There’s More To Fixing Health Care Than The Health Care Laws
How To Be Money Savvy With Your Wellness

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

February 19, 2019

Excitement and motivation are intense. As the Sun dives more deeply into Pisces, the visionary Sign of the Fishes, the Moon gets busy. Luna starts the day in regal Leo. By late morning she’s in diligent Virgo and exactly Full. Mental Mercury is conjunct…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

February 2019

Celebrating The Love And Valentine’s Week! Come detox, relax and get your romance or couples readings while you recharge in our sanctuary! We have a fun line up of readers and healers...

Cost: 3 service special - $60, single service- $25

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Our outer world is a reflection of what lies within our collective inner worlds. By directing our thoughts in specific, positive ways, we have the potential to guide the world towards becoming a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Three weekly workshops with Ayal will be offered on February 10, 17, 24 from 10:30 to 11:30am In this meeting, we will talk about sleep and remind or teach simple techniques for an easier...

Cost: $20

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

MBSR: Mindful Based Stress Reduction Learn how to tap into your inner well of strength, peace, and ease. Mindfulness, as taught in the MBSR program, is recognized worldwide as the gold...

Cost: Free

Where:
Enlightened Interventions
25 Union St.
Worcester, MA  01608
View map »


Sponsor: The Center for Resilient Living
Telephone: 508-556-7022
Contact Name: Ginny Wholley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Wednesday, February 20th–Saturday, February 23rd 9am-3pm each day Experience transformation guided by Mother Mary. Through Divine vibration, you will be aligned for quicker healing and...

Cost: $500

Where:
, MA


Sponsor: The LoveLight Center
Telephone: (207) 216-9584
Contact Name: Cheryl Banfield

More information

Discover how you can release tight muscles and improve range of motion in locked joints in a weekly ESSENTRICS stretch classes led by Raindrop Fisher, certified Essentrics instructor. Raindrop is a...

Cost: $10 drop-in / $100 for 12 classes

Where:
Village at Waterman Lake
Function Room - Chalet Bldg
715 Putnam Pike
Greenville, RI  02828
View map »


Sponsor: Healthier Fit Lifestyle
Telephone: 401-678-0950
Contact Name: Raindrop Fisher
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

ESSENTRICS with Raindrop is a dynamic, one-hour, slow-movement stretch and strengthening class that uses all the muscles of the body to liberate stiff joints and rebalancing the body so that you...

Cost: $5 donation

Where:
Pascoag Public Library
57 Church Street
Pascoag, RI  02859
View map »


Sponsor: Healthier Fit Lifestyle
Telephone: 401-678-0950
Contact Name: Raindrop Fisher
Website »

More information

This 8 week series in Tai Chi will provide you with everything you need to get started in a personal Tai Chi practice. Just for Beginners—there is no expectation, and no pressure in...

Cost: $137 for 8 weeks

Where:
Spiral Path Connections
218 Boston Street
Unit 104
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiral Path
Telephone: 978-314-4264
Contact Name: Johanna Hattendorf
Website »

More information

With Sherri Snyder-Roche. This yoga workshop will explore self-compassion, self-love and pushing through discomfort to help your recovery process. Recovery from divorce, eating disorders,...

Cost: $95 for 6 weeks or $17 drop in

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 E. Hartford Avenue, Unit A
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.” —Krishnamacharya Join us for an evening of deep exploration and transformation using the...

Cost: $30 (some hardship rates available)

Where:
Spontaneous Celebrations
45 Danforth Street
Jamaica Plain, MA  02130
View map »


Telephone: 617-233-6410
Contact Name: Allen Howell, M.Ed.LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Great readings at a great rate - only $20 for 15 minutes. Join us for a great day with lots of specials too! Featuring Amit’s Tibetan Singing Bowls and Silver Jewelry Sale!...

Cost: $20 for a 15 minute reading

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

This workshop will be a wonderful and interactive experience for parents and their child. You will:  1. Learn the importance of developing focus through basic mindfulness exercises....

Cost: $40

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Join us as we herald in the month of love with the archangels! It will be an evening of healing and soul replenishment. Our event will open with a brief message of love and support from the...

Cost: $40

Where:
private office
North Andover, MA  01845


Sponsor: Diana Harris
Telephone: 978-973-6637
Contact Name: Diana Harris
Website »

More information

6 Saturdays 10am–11:30am February 23–March 30, 2019 Taijiquan (Tai Chi ) is a healing martial art, using breath and movement together to strengthen the body and quiet...

Cost: $120

Where:
Metta Wellness
679 Pleasant Street
Paxton, MA  01612
View map »


Sponsor: Metta Wellness
Telephone: 774-245-5487
Contact Name: Rick Rocha
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags