When the People Lead, the Leaders Follow
By Cheri Avery Black
Let your voices be heard! The Republican proposed American Health Care Act would massively cut Medicaid as well as other vital coverage, cut taxes for the wealthy, and bail out insurance companies.
Since health care represents one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the political debate increasingly is including a call for a sensible solution enjoyed in just about every developed nation: a single-payer health care for all. We already have this immensely popular program for some, called Medicare, begun in 1965,which guarantees health care for seniors and people with permanent disabilities. Our time has come to expand it.
Medicare for All, expanded to cover all Americans,would maintain the familiar system of private and non-profit hospitals, and doctors’ offices. The main difference is that health insurance companies,making unconscionable profits off people’s pain through their huge administrative costs, would cease to exist.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a primary care physician and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, says, “There is a scientific consensus that being uninsured raises death rates.” She explained how Medicare for All would work.
“You would get a Medicare card the day you’re born, and have it your entire life. All medically necessary care would be covered by a tax-funded Medicare for All program. All the current billing and insurance enrollment is extremely expensive, consuming 31 percent of total U.S. health spending. Asimple single-payer system could save about half, or $500 billion a year, which we could use to get to universal health care and to remove co-payments and deductibles.”
Some States Are Not Waiting
California is not waiting for a national plan. The Healthy California Act, which would cover all state residents, has already passed the state Senate. The plan enjoys widespread support — a recent poll commissioned by the California Nurses Association confirmed that 70% of Californians favor a single-payer plan. Studies have shown it is financially doable. In New York, a similar bill has passed the Assembly.
Behind these state legislations is a diverse and growing grass-roots movement, including Physicians for a National Health Program, unions like National Nurses United, and Healthcare-NOW! Statewide coalitions are educating, organizing, and pressuring lawmakers, and prominent politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders are rallying the troops and building momentum.
Our time has come. Let’s make sure it doesn’t pass us by.