Medicare for all, now is the time

By Jack Bernard
The Birmingham (Ala.) News, October 12, 2017

A bitter and anxious public is fed up with the inertia in Congress and politicians arguing but getting nothing done. Gallup found that approval ratings for Congress are at historical lows, 16 percent, whereas as recently as February they were at 28 percent.

The last President campaigned on hope and change, but was inconsistent. When running for the Senate, Obama stated at the AFL-CIO Human and Women's Rights Conference (per Politifact) "A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. That's what I'd like to see."

But, by the time he started his Presidential run in April 2007, the Chicago Trib. reported a different take:  "He has said he is reluctant to switch to a 'single-payer' national health insurance system because of the difficulty in making a quick transition from the employer-based private system." In other words, he was clearly afraid to make major changes to our healthcare system and guarantee Medicare for all.

Instead, he inexplicably took a conservative program designed by the right wing Heritage Foundation (which feeds Republican policy wonks) and adopted it as his very own.

Romneycare, with its known pros (increased access) and cons (high cost, dependency on private insurance companies), overnight became Obamacare.  And, because he was overly idealistic and very inexperienced in national politics, he naively expected GOP support. Obviously, it never came.

So, given this precedent, the switch by the incoming President away from Medicare for All to the market-based (i.e. you are on your own and good luck) Ryan-Price inspired Trumpcare should not be a shock.

For decades, Trump praised the Canadian single payer system. In the Republican debate, he said: "As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you're talking about here." True, it works in almost every developed nation and at a fraction of what we pay with everyone covered...just not here.

But by January 2016, his tune had changed, as he indicated on ABC's "This Week": "We'll work something out, that doesn't mean single payer." And, it has evolved into support for Trumpcare, which the CBO states would have resulted in a loss of insurance for tens of millions of Americans, as well as a major tax break for the wealthy and corporations. 

According to a June 2017 Pew poll, 58% of the public believes the federal government is responsible for guaranteeing that all Americans have healthcare insurance. Single payer is specifically mentioned by the majority of them. Frankly, it is the only reasonable option left to control cost and ensure access for everyone.

So, why haven't Schumer and Pelosi, and GOP politicians in general, signed as co-sponsors of Bernie Sanders' bill? Why did both Obama and Trump both run away from the best solution to our health care crisis?

The answer is clear. Always concerned with their bottom line and little else, the healthcare-industrial complex is determined to keep us, the American people, fighting amongst ourselves while their profits rise and their CEOs make millions in bonuses and stock options.

The Trump administration, campaigning on draining the swamp, has instead appointed self-serving crocodiles.  Installing Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of DHHS stands out as one particularly egregious move.

Price is a total hypocrite. He criticizes Pelosi for taking one private jet flight. Then, when he gets the chance, he wastes over a million dollars of taxpayer money on private planes. He even had the audacity to take one from DC to Philadelphia, a short drive.

When Price was in Congress, he was the beneficiary of sweetheart healthcare stock deals that enabled him to amass a fortune. These were the same companies that he was regulating via legislation. No wonder he is now worth $14 million (per Open, making him the 50th wealthiest member of Congress.

But, much worse, Price is dedicated to destroying both Medicare and Medicaid, as we can see from the Trumpcare bill based on his ideas. Per the CBO, it targeted the 24 million poor and working class, mostly white and lacking a college education, who would lose health insurance if the Obamacare is repealed. They would rejoin the 30 million the ACA failed to cover.

And, per the CBO, the rich would have gotten richer through $600 million in tax cuts for those making over $250,000. The average southern family makes about $50,000.

Price has been pushed out, but there is a much larger issue. There are bills that have been introduced in both the Senate and the House to enact Medicare for all, ensuring full access and controlling cost. But, with the moneyed interests on the other side, it will not happen unless taxpayers (you) put pressure on elected officials to do it.

Jack Bernard is a retired health care executive and the former Director of Health Planning for the State of Georgia. He was also on the Jasper County Board of Health and County Commission.