Universal healthcare, also called single-payer system, has emerged along with the economy in general as a top domestic issue of the presidential campaign. You wouldn’t know that from the Republican candidates who support the status quo of market-based, private healthcare. But the Democratic candidates have heard the call of the populace for universal coverage and have remarkably similar proposals.
Dennis Kucinich is the only one supporting a true, single-payer system based on the Medicare. Other than him, the Democrats all offer play-or-pay to employers. That is, provide health coverage to employees or pay into a fund to support the cost of coverage from pools to be created to offer coverage to those who don’t get it from their employers. All the proposals subsidize low-income families.
Recently, the leading Democratic candidates have been squabbling over “mandates”:
- Barack Obama’s plan would mandate purchasing coverage for children, but not adults – at least in the beginning.
- John Edwards wants to automatically enroll people on tax returns, but not mandate coverage until costs come down.
- Hillary Clinton supports mandates, but can’t decide if there should be penalties for non-compliance
One problem with all the mandate plans is that even with subsidies, some people cannot afford coverage. In fact, Mitt Romney’s universal coverage plan in Massachusetts, in effect now for a couple of years, has so far needed to exempt 20 percent of people from the mandate.
Another difficulty is that all the proposals maintain private insurers in the mix, an unlikely method of lowering costs. All elders need do to realize that is check the percentage increases in their Part B and Part D premiums this year.
An important financial aspect of a successful universal healthcare plan is including everyone in the pool. The 80/20 rule of business applies to healthcare; about 20 percent of the population uses 80 percent of healthcare. By spreading the cost – through taxes, premiums, subsidies where necessary, etc. – everyone contributes and everyone, rich and poor alike, has equal access to healthcare.
If the 80 percent of healthier people object to financing the 20 percent, they would do well to keep in mind that each of us is only one disease or accident away from joining the 20 percent. And if the wealthy want to purchase additional coverage for luxury hospital rooms and monkey-gland treatments at spas in Switzerland, fine. But healthcare is a human right and the time has come for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized nations in granting that right.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. does not have the best healthcare in the world. It lags far behind every other industrialized nation in the standard benchmarks of national health including life expectancy and infant mortality, and those other nations achieve their superiority at a much lower cost per person than the United States.
During the caucus campaign in Iowa, the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee ran this clever (and true) image in local newspapers campaign and are now taking the ad campaign national.
SIGN OUR ONLINE PETITION FOR CHENEYCARE, says the headline above this image:
“Unlike the average American, the president, vice president and members of Congress all enjoy government-financed health care with few restrictions or prohibitive fees. They are never turned away for pre-existing conditions or denied care for what an insurance company labels ‘experimental treatments.’ Such are the benefits of what we call ‘CheneyCare.’”
Although it makes a good deal of sense, HR 676 is an unlikely contender for adoption for the entire country if for no other reason than it eliminates private health insurers who contribute so much money to presidential and congressional campaigns to preserve the status quo. But the CheneyCare initiative raises awareness of the disparity between what kind of healthcare our officials grant themselves and what they are willing to do for the rest of us. For that alone, it’s a terrific idea.
Only Dennis Kucinich, who has little chance of gaining the Democratic nomination, would support CheneyCare for all. So if the best we can expect from the rest of the candidates is a hybrid of public and private healthcare, any of the other candidates will be fine on that issue and I’ll take it for now. Let’s just get something that covers everyone in any form and tweak it later.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior tells the tale of a special pair of Little Brown Boots.]