The Medicare-for-All Moment

There is only one solution to the twin problems of escalating health
care costs and the epidemic of the uninsured: a Medicare-for-All,
single payer system.

Unfortunately, the healthcare debate on Capitol Hill has evolved
without serious consideration of the Medicare-for-All single payer
health proposal. There are many reasons for this, but one is that many
who actually support Medicare-for-All have claimed that the proposal is
"not feasible."

With the House leadership having settled on a single proposal, now is
the time to set aside worries about feasibility. The House process is
resolved. Members of Congress should have the opportunity to vote on
the merits, up-or-down, on a Medicare-for-All single payer health

Whether they will have this chance is in the hands of Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, and likely to be decided today. Contact her right away to urge
that the House be permitted to vote on a Medicare-for-All single payer
health proposal. Call (202) 225-0100 or (as a second best alternative,
submit comments on the Speaker's web page: <>.

Representative Anthony Weiner, D-New York, has proposed to introduce
such a Medicare-for-All measure on the House floor in the form of an
amendment to the leadership's healthcare package. If a vote is
permitted, it will mark the first time either house of Congress has
voted on Medicare-for-All, and will be a landmark in the inevitable
march to a national Medicare-for-All system.

Meanwhile, Representative Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is seeking to enable
states to implement their own Medicare-for-All single payer health
initiatives. Representative Kucinich introduced an amendment in the
House Education and Labor Committee to facilitate such action, by
providing for waivers of ERISA (employee benefit) requirements for
states adopting single payer plans. This amendment passed the committee
with bipartisan support. If Speaker Pelosi decides to incorporate it
into the leadership bill, it stands a good chance of becoming law.

Although there are reasons to be skeptical, one can hope that the
health reform package that ultimately becomes law will significantly
expand coverage and curb insurance industry abuses.

But it is certain that the health reform package will not solve the
overwhelming problems of coverage, cost and quality of care facing the
country. Solving those problems requires going to the source: the
health insurance corporations.

With its private health insurance industry-dominated system, the United
States spends far more than other wealthy nations on health care (at
least 50 percent more than every country except Luxembourg) but sports
middling health indicators.

The private health insurance industry-dominated system in the United
States permits 45 million people to live without health insurance,
denying them access to preventative and routine care, resulting in the
death of at least 35,000 people a year.

The private health insurance industry-dominated system tolerates
private health insurance companies making life-and-death rationing
decisions for millions of people with only minimal accountability.

The private health insurance industry-dominated system lets private
health insurers refuse to take sick people as customers and engage in
endless manipulations to discard its customers if they do become sick.

The private health insurance industry-dominated system features a
system in which medical bills and illness contribute to almost two of
every three personal bankruptcies -- even though three-quarters of
these bankrupt people had insurance when they became sick.

Not least, the private health insurance industry-dominated health care
system translates into a private health insurance industry-dominated
political system. As a result, too many politicians refuse to consider
real solutions.

There is a cure all for these ills. It is a Medicare-for-All,
single-payer system, in which the government pays medical bills (thus
operating as the "single payer").

In a Medicare-for-All system, health care is available as a matter of
right. No one is denied treatment because they can't pay. No one is
mandated to buy coverage. No one is denied coverage because of
pre-existing conditions. No one goes bankrupt paying medical bills.

A Medicare-for-All system would save $350 billion-$400 billion a year
in costs (up to $4 trillion over the 10-year period routinely analyzed
by the Congressional Budget Office) -- enough to cover all of the
uninsured. No scandalous CEO pay packages. No money siphoned out of the
system by rent-seeking middlemen. No needless paperwork and bureaucracy.

A Medicare-for-All system succeeds by doing away with the private health insurance industry.

The powerful insurers, understandably, don't like this idea. Yet
despite waves of deceptive and misleading propaganda about the
purported horrors of government-run insurance, the people do like the
idea of Medicare-for-All -- polls show it is supported by a majority of
the public. But insurance industry dollars have spoken louder than the
people's voices. And so Medicare-for-All hasn't been given a serious
hearing in Congress. Speaker Pelosi should at least enable a clean
up-or-down vote. Call (202) 225-0100 and urge her to do so.

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