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It's Time for Medicare for All

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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From Robert Reich Blog

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Mitch McConnell is delaying a vote on the Senate Republican version of Trumpcare because he doesn't yet have a majority.

Some Senate Republicans think the bill doesn't get rid of enough of the Affordable Care Act. Others worry that it goes too far -- especially in light of the Congressional Budget Office's finding that it would eliminate coverage for 22 million Americans.

What should be the Democrats' response? Over the next weeks or months, Democrats must continue to defend the Affordable Care Act. It's not perfect, but it's a major step in the right direction. Over 20 million Americans have gained coverage because of it.

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But Democrats also need to go further and offer Americans a positive vision of where the nation should be headed over the long term. That's toward Medicare for all.

Some background: American spending on healthcare per person is more than twice the average in the world's 35 advanced economies. Yet Americans are sicker, our lives are shorter, and we have more chronic illnesses than in any other advanced nation.

That's because medical care is so expensive for the typical American that many put off seeing a doctor until their health has seriously deteriorated.

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Why is healthcare so much cheaper in other nations? Partly because their governments negotiate lower rates with health providers. In France, the average cost of a magnetic resonance imagining exam is $363. In the United States, it's $1,121. There, an appendectomy costs $4,463. Here, $13,851.

They can get lower rates because they cover everyone -- which gives them lots of bargaining power.

Other nations also don't have to pay the costs of private insurers shelling out billions of dollars a year on advertising and marketing -- much of it intended to attract healthier and younger people and avoid the sicker and older.

Nor do other nations have to pay boatloads of money to the shareholders and executives of big for-profit insurance companies.

Finally, they don't have to bear the high administrative costs of private insurers -- requiring endless paperwork to keep track of every procedure by every provider.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare's administrative costs are only about 2 percent of its operating expenses. That's less than one-sixth the administrative costs of America's private insurers

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To make matters even worse for Americans, the nation's private health insurers are merging like mad in order to suck in even more money from consumers and taxpayers by reducing competition.

At the same time, their focus on attracting healthy people and avoiding sick people is creating a vicious cycle. Insurers that take in sicker and costlier patients lose money, which forces them to raise premiums, co-payments, and deductibles. This, in turn, makes it harder for people most in need of health insurance to afford it.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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