Terry H. Schwadron
April 12, 2019
However futile, Sen. Bernie Sanders did the Right Thing: He has formally re-introduced legislation to launch the Medicare-for-All plan for health care access, bracing the elephant in the room. As it stands, it most like will not pass Congress.
What makes it particularly right is that he is not waiting until he or another Democrat succeeds Donald Trump as president in 2020, who takes exactly the complete opposite position, removing government from health care to the degree possible. Instead, Sanders acknowledges that he has a good perch for leadership in the Senate right now, and that he is in his job to fix things, not just talk.
What troubles me about the introduction is that we’re missing the campaign to make this successful legislation. After all, this is about persuasion, not just a declaration, right?
The intent for Medicare for All is to provide health insurance to all Americans under a single plan run by the government and financed by taxpayers. Private insurers could remain in business to provide benefits, such as elective surgery, not covered by the government. Clearly, the main drawback is the cost — as high as $32 trillion over 10 years.
Sanders — and others, including a study by the RAND Corporation — say Medicare for All would save middle-class families money by decreasing their premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Essentially, the bulk of the average $12,000 a family in insurance payments would be transferred to taxes. In return, a swollen health insurance population would have vast new negotiating power and — theoretically — could win better prices for medical costs, hospital bills and pharmaceuticals as a result.
If you believe — and generally, I do — that a wider guaranteed health insurance could not only add upwards of 30 million new health insured, but result in some significant savings in medical-related costs, then this is a good moment.
It is particularly good because Trump has promised to dump Obamacare without a plan for any replacement besides the skimpy health plans we’ve seen emerge from groups of companies.
But tackling health care, as we saw a decade ago, is a huge undertaking, and it takes a lot more than introducing the bill, and even jawboning about health care as a human right, to win the day for a legislated full system to deliver health care in America.