Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Medicare-for-All Goes Mainstream

The health care reform that dares not speak its name edged out of the shadows yesterday with a New York Times editorial suggesting:

"A new public plan--to offer consumers greater choice, keep the private plans honest and, one can hope, restrain the relentless growth in health care premiums and underlying medical costs--seems worth trying.

"Any new public plan would constitute only part of a much broader effort to provide coverage for 46 million Americans who currently are uninsured and many more who may soon join their ranks. Other major parts under discussion include strengthening employer-provided coverage, expanding existing public programs such as Medicaid and creating a national health insurance exchange where individuals without employer coverage, small businesses and possibly others could buy policies at inexpensive group rates from qualified private plans and, we hope, from a new public plan as well."

This tiptoe approach to what has been called Medicare-for-All is symptomatic of the political minefields surrounding what experts consider the best solution to health-care reform--a single payer system, which has been gaining the support of doctors, nurses and unions since Rep. John Conyers introduced a bill in the House last year but is not part of the Obama Administration's "incremental" approach to reform the system.

In fact, the downfall of Tom Daschle, the President's first choice for health czar, derailed the faint hope that such a solution would be considered, since Daschle had written a book advocating just that.

Meanwhile, private insurer profits and "administrative costs" keep draining one out of every three dollars spent, making US health care one of the most expensive and least effective operations in the world.

Getting Medicare-for-All on the agenda to compete with that system would be a start toward sanity.

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