by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of American Reporter Correspondents
January 21, 2016
MEDICARE FOR ALL: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a baby step toward the goal of joining the ranks of every other industrialized nation in the world that considers health care a right, not a commodity to make a profit on.
And while the ranks of the uninsured have fallen under the ACA, there are still about 29 million Americans without health insurance, and tens of millions more who have insurance but can't afford to use it because of high deductibles and co-payments.
That's why it's time to finish the job that the ACA started. It's time for Medicare for All.
This week, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released the details for a universal health care plan that would build upon the success of the ACA and Medicare.
Instead of a system that requires you to buy a policy, people would be automatically covered at birth.
Instead of a system designed to make money for private insurers by limiting coverage and denying necessary care, people would be covered for all medically-necessary services with complete free choice of one's doctor and hospital.
Instead of a fragmented system riddled with bureaucracy and profiteering, we would have a single, federally administered public agency that organizes the financing of health care, while the delivery of the care would stay in private hands.
Instead of a system that is disproportionately paid for by lower- and middle-income Americans, we would have a public system funded through taxes.
Medicare for All would reduce overall health care costs and bring down prescription drug prices. It would, in Sanders' words, "guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege."
The naysayers are many, but Medicare for All could save as much as $6 trillion over the next decade compared to the current system.
How would it be paid for? A 2.2 percent health care premium for individuals, a 6.2 percent health care payroll tax paid by employers, an estate tax on the wealthiest Americans, and by bringing back a more progressive federal income tax rate schedule that forces wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.
Sanders says that 95 percent of Americans would pay less for health care than they do now. But don't just take his word for it.
In an analysis of the plan, University of Massachusetts economics professor Gerald Friedman concluded that that a typical family of four with an annual income of $50,000 would save about $6,000 a year in health care costs.
That average family now pays $4,955 in annual health insurance premiums, plus another $1,318 in deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for care not covered by private insurance. The Sanders plan would cut the average family's cost down to $466 a year.
Would that family pay more in taxes? Yes. Everyone would pay more in taxes, based on their ability to pay. But for nearly all families, the savings in health insurance costs would greatly offset the tax increases.
Would there be a fight to kill this plan? Of course. The same forces that have opposed universal health care ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt first proposed it as part of the original Social Security Act in 1935 will gang up on this proposal.
But this is an idea whose time has come. The ACA was a first step. Medicare for All finishes the job.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.