If it were up to me, we would not begin presidential campaigns until about six weeks before election day.
But since it doesn’t work that way here and the U.S. has been in full campaign mode since the morning after the 2006 mid-term election, wouldn’t you think by now that anyone who has thrown his hat into the presidential ring would have a plan to address the number one domestic issue in the land?
Of the 115 announced candidates (yes, that’s correct) for U.S. president only two, John Edwards and Barack Obama, have proposed healthcare plans.
You may think Hillary Clinton has a plan and you would be right to expect her to have one by now given her past experience and penchant for dropping the reference at every speech. But all she has done is release a tepid proposal to reduce healthcare costs without any mention of how to cover the 47 million uninsured in the U.S.
Neither Edwards’s and Obama’s healthcare plans call for universal coverage - single-payer systems. Both would allow people to choose between private insurance and Medicare-type plans to be offered by the government. Plus, Obama would not allow private insurers to deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on health history.
But unlike Edwards’s plan, Obama’s does not mandate coverage for adults which would leave the cost of care for the uninsured to be borne by others – you and me.
Both plans are more complex than expressed here, but complexity does not equal boldness. They both try to take credit for inching toward a single-payer system by allowing us to assume that since government health programs have a lower overhead, private plans would be forced to cut costs to compete thereby making the healthcare system more cost-efficient. But cut costs how, is the unanswered question.
In the end, both men lack courage to break the stranglehold the corporatocracy has on healthcare in the U.S. by openly endorsing a switch to universal coverage as soon as it can be implemented.
What these two men tell us about themselves in their half-baked, half-private plans is that they are timid, too much politics-as-usual kind of people to fix America’s broken healthcare system. Two men who, as senator and former senator, have no stake in fixing healthcare for the rest of us because both have the best health coverage in the country guaranteed for life by the federal government.
Because people 65 and older have Medicare, which works pretty well, perhaps some elders haven’t noticed that American healthcare is in crisis. One-sixth of all Americans are without health coverage. Millions of children go without basic checkups and dental care. Every day, people die because hospitals can’t afford to treat them.
For decades, we have believed U.S. healthcare is the best in the world; the truth is that by every standard benchmark, it is one of the worst in the industrialized world.
Writing last Sunday in the Washington Post, columnist David Broder suggested that prevention along with better management of chronic illness and disease is the answer to improving Americans' health and reducing healthcare costs in the U.S. That would help, but it is not, as he implies, a substitute for universal coverage.
What we need, to stare down the people who don’t want health coverage for everyone (corporations), is a man or woman running for president who has old-fashioned, true-blue, American courage.
And it will take extraordinary courage because any politician who promises to push through universal coverage will get no campaign contributions from the billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, and there will be plenty of vicious “swiftboat” attacks from the pharmas and the rest of the healthcare industry.
Is there any politician out there, do you think, with that kind of courage? And who has a prayer of being elected?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joy Des Jardins writes of the trials and tribulations of Decorating with Dave.]