Posted on July 8, 2008

What is "Health Care for America Now" doing?



Campaign launch - July 8, 2008
For coalition members see:

Campaign ad:

Mother with son, consulting Magic Eight Ball: Will they pay for his inhaler?

Magic Eight Ball: Not likely

Gentleman, in workshop of his garage: Is my surgery covered?

Magic Eight Ball: Don’t think so

Pregnant mother-to-be: Can I chose my child’s doctor?

Magic Eight Ball: Better not tell you

Concerned woman, too young to die: Will they cover the chemo?

Magic Eight Ball: Doubtful

Off-screen voice: Will health insurance companies ever put your health before their profits?

Magic Eight Ball: Not a chance

Off-screen voice: We can’t trust insurance companies to fix the health care mess.

Statement of common purpose:

Our government’s responsibility is to guarantee quality affordable health care for everyone in America and it must play a central role in regulating, financing, and providing health coverage by establishing:

A choice of a private insurance plan, including keeping the insurance you have if you like it, or a public insurance plan without a private insurer middleman that guarantees affordable coverage.

(… and nine other requirements for a regulated private insurance industry.)


By Don McCanne, MD

The members of the Health Care for America Now! (HCAN) coalition are very dedicated, altruistic individuals and organizations who share with us the goal of affordable, comprehensive, high quality care for everyone. They agree with us that the private insurance industry has failed miserably in fulfilling its responsibility to bring to all of us the affordable health care that we need.

The private insurance industry, as it functions today, clearly must be replaced with a system that works. So what is the solution proposed by the HCAN coalition? Let’s replace the private insurance industry with… the private insurance industry. Only let’s regulate it by requiring the insurers to provide us with the comprehensive coverage that we need “through the largest possible pools” - thus ensuring that their products will have premiums that only the very wealthiest of us can afford.

The HCAN coalition also would enact a public program in competition with the private plans to be sure that the private plans would sell us the comprehensive products that we need - a not-so-difficult challenge considering that the public program would be outrageously expensive due to adverse selection. So then we would have a choice of highly-regulated, unaffordable private plans, or an even less affordable public program option.

Why did the coalition insist on including private plans when the industry’s track record is so miserable? It was a political decision based not on which policies would actually work, but rather based on rhetorical framing that would resonate with a public that remains relatively uninformed on the make-or-break nuances of health policy. Focus groups and polls showed that “choice of private plans” resonated well, so they decided to abandon policy and go with messaging.

The members of Physicians for a National Health Program would take a more “doctorly” approach toward reform. While the HCAN coalition is recommending placebo therapy, we would point out that effective treatment is available: a single payer national health program.