My guest today is Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland who is co-director of Popular Resistance and coordinator of Health Over Profit for Everyone Campaign. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Margaret.
Joan Brunwasser: Your most recent piece [2.25.18] in OpEdNews is entitled: A Proposal Designed to Confuse Public and Prevent "Medicare for All". Apparently, the Dems are pushing a plan to expand Medicare. I'm confused. Isn't this what we want - Medicare for all?
Margaret Flowers: Hello, Joan. Thank you for reaching out to me.
The Democratic Party's think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), calls their plan "Medicare Extra for All," but it is actually an impediment to National Improved Medicare for All, which we support. Far from being Medicare for All, CAP's plan would only give people under 65 years of age the chance to buy a Medicare plan, including the private insurance-run Medicare Advantage plans. It would keep the very complicated and costly private insurance-based system that we currently have and the for-profit health facilities that cost more and have poorer health outcomes. Their plan protects the profits of private health insurers.
Our movement views private health insurers as the problem and prevents them from standing between patients and the care they need. National Improved Medicare for All, or NIMA, would create a single national health insurance that includes every person in the country from birth to death and covers all necessary health care, including dental, vision and hearing care, medications, mental health and long term care and more. Patients choose where they go for care and patients and health professionals decide what care they need.
NIMA will control health care costs through proven methods by significantly reducing bureaucracy, negotiating fair prices for drugs and services and taking the profit motive out of the healthcare system. This savings allows the system to provide better benefits.
CAP's proposal will still be very expensive, will leave people without insurance or with inadequate insurance and will allow private health insurers to continue to limit where people go for care and what care they receive.
It is interesting that CAP calls their plan "Medicare Extra for All," because the fact that they use a name similar to what we support shows the movement for National Improved Medicare for All, or NIMA, is very strong. It is also a problem that they use this name because it is fooling some people into supporting it.
JB: This is very disappointing news. What are the press doing about making distinctions and emphasizing the differences between the two similarly named but very dissimilar plans?
MF: The commercial media is marketing the CAP plan as better than National Improved Medicare for All by calling it "more politically feasible." It is disappointing to see progressive media outlets such as HuffPost embracing it as "liberal" and "ambitious."
I view the CAP plan as quite the opposite. While it might be more politically palatable to members of Congress because they can appear to be supportive of Medicare for All while protecting the profits of the health industries that fund their campaigns, it is impractical because it will fail to solve the healthcare crisis.
The healthcare crisis in the United States will continue until we take effective steps to solve it. NIMA is the smallest step we can take because it places everyone in the same system at once, controls healthcare costs and uses that savings to provide comprehensive coverage. Anything less than that will fail because it will be too expensive and will leave people out. Beyond NIMA, there will still be work to do to open hospitals in rural areas and low income communities where they have closed, increase the number of primary care health professionals and more.
When it comes to what is politically feasible, that is a factor that people can change. In fact, it is changing as more people support NIMA and politicians are being forced to take a stand on it. The new CAP plan undermines the work that has been done to build support for NIMA by offering legislators an alternative that sounds good, but isn't.