Saving Obamacare Is Not Enough—We Need Medicare for All

The terms of the health-care debate must be shifted.

By Dennis Kucinich
The Nation, March 22, 2017

The health-care debate in America is essentially an argument over what kind of private insurance market people should have access to: President Obama’s, where the insurance companies made out like bandits, or President Trump’s, where insurance companies will make out like bandits.

Let’s change the debate by making it between for profit insurance vs. not for profit health-care. That’s what I and Congressmen John Conyers and Jim McDermott sought to do in 2003 when we wrote and introduced Medicare for All, HR 676, in the House of Representatives.

Six years ago, I was the last Democrat hold-out on “Obamacare.” My constituents desperately needed pre-existing coverage and insurance for their adult children. I reluctantly voted for it to prove that some reform was possible, not because it was an acceptable end-point.

It still left out millions and left consumers at the mercy of insurance companies. And everyone knows insurance companies make money by providing as little health-care as possible.

Here is what the for-profit insurance system brings:

  • Rising premiums and copays.
  • Diminishing coverage.
  • More government subsidy of private insurers.
  • Rising costs for prescription drugs.
  • More people going bankrupt because of hospital bills.
  • More people losing their homes because of hospital bills.

More seniors forced into poverty, losing everything they worked for their entire lives.

This is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, left vs. right. This is about life vs. death.

This is about whether we, as Americans, can recognize a common interest in using the vast resources of our nation to insure the health of our people.

Heath spending approaches nearly 18 percent of the $20 trillion dollar GDP. Nearly a trillion dollars of that amount goes for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, and the cost of paperwork.

If we took all the money that people and the government are presently paying into the for-profit system and applied it to care for people in a not-for-profit system, we could provide for basic health care for all Americans, including prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, mental health, and long-term care.

That is what HR 676, Medicare for All, was all about.

Medicare for All is an idea whose time has come. Let’s make all Americans healthy and wealthy. Let’s lift up all of our families, save our homes, and help our businesses and industries. Let’s join every other industrialized nation in the world and offer health care to all of our people.

The terms of the debate in Washington must be shifted. We must not be stuck between competing for profit health insurance schemes. Let’s renew the debate: Medicare for All or profit for a few.

Dennis Kucinich, a former Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, represented Ohio's 10th District from 1997 to 2013.