Democrat — MO 2nd District

Healthcare Reform

Summary:

  • We have an insanely inefficient health-care system in America. We need universal coverage not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the smart thing to do.
  • The federal government must commit itself to providing a public option for health care insurance that provides all Americans with a basic level of quality health care.
  • We can learn a tremendous amount from the experiences of other countries. Australia and Switzerland provide great examples of hybrid systems where the public and private sectors can work together to provide quality universal health care coverage.
  • Congress’ abandonment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program is appalling. Funding for the 8 million American children now denied basic health care coverage needs to be restored immediately. Congress’ refusal to renew this quality program demonstrates its perverted and unconscionable priorities.

Universal coverage and single-payer. That’s my stand on healthcare. The first is a no-brainer. The second, admittedly, is a bit trickier to explain.

Healthcare insurance shouldn’t be looked at like “any other kind of insurance.” Car insurance applies to your car and covers damage to your car and the property of others. A civilized society need not care about your car. Nor should it demand that everyone have car insurance.

But a civilized society does care if people’s lives are at risk. A civilized society does not let people die in the streets. A civilized society should provide a basic level of insurance against illness and injury beyond simply saying, “You can always go to the ER. They have to treat you.”

Like education, government should guarantee a basic level of health care coverage. And like public education, we should demand that it be universal and of good quality.

Moreover, universal health care coverage should be demanded because without it, we’re left with an absurdly INEFFECIENT system. By leaving millions without adequate coverage, we’re left with an expensive system that ruins lives and leaves thousands in bankruptcy. We spend more but get less in return.

Ours is currently an astonishingly inefficient system. Ironically, it’s a system defended by conservatives. That’s remarkable considering that EFFICIENCY used to be a conservative principle. I guess that died with Barry Goldwater.

So covering everyone really shouldn’t be that debatable. Demanding a single-payer system is more difficult.

Most who call for a single-payer system (Medicare-for-All) point to Canada and the United Kingdom as examples. Those systems are significantly better than ours. And people in those countries are rightfully more satisfied – and healthier – than Americans. But as good as these systems are, there are better systems that we can emulate. Among them, are the health care systems of Australia and Switzerland.

In both Australia and Switzerland healthcare coverage is provided through a “hybrid” system similar to America’s. Unlike our system, however, the governments of both Australia and Switzerland guarantee a basic level of universal care. Like our system, private health insurance companies are alive and well in Australia and Switzerland.  Working in concert with the government’s system, these private companies even make profits! They just need to compete with the government’s public option.

(Sound familiar? In the first version of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare Part I), the federal government provided a public option. That was ripped out of the bill by pseudo-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman. And in what should be a surprise to no one, Senator Lieberman’s chief campaign supporter through the years was private health insurers and Big-Pharma. Two entities in America that definitely didn’t want to compete with a public option).

So, should we insist on universal coverage AND single-payer? Yes. But we cannot demand that private for-profit health insurers be forced out of business. Not only does the Australian system show us that such “hybrid” measures can work very well, but politically speaking, it’s not practical to demand that Americans give up private health care insurance. For many, private health insurance works well. Demanding a “Medicare-for-All” system will only alienate them. Demanding the end of private health insurance will erode some of the support that already exists for common-sense reforms.

And that will play into the hands of conservatives that want to protect our inefficient and highly inadequate status quo.

States Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Republican Congress’ recent abandonment of CHIP (formally known as S-CHIP) is particularly appalling. This is a federal health insurance program created in the late-1990s for children of the working poor. These are kids whose parents can’t afford private insurance (or their employer doesn’t offer it) but they make “too much” income to be eligible for Medicaid. As your representative, I will work tirelessly to defend programs like CHIP.

This was a bi-partisan program negotiated between Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress. I was working as a research analyst in 1998 for the Missouri Senate when Missouri designed its state program under S-CHIP. Republicans and Democrats worked together to provide Missouri with one of the most admired and successful programs for low-income children.

Fast forward to 2017. The Congress of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (with approval of President Trump) decided to simply let the program – and thus all funding to the states – expire. This takes health care coverage away from over 8 million children (about 87,000 in Missouri alone) in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

This is almost unconscionable. I say “almost” because we’re becoming accustomed to this Congress taking the side of the rich and powerful over the interests of Americans who need help. Spending money appears to only be something this Congress is willing to do if it is to help their wealthy sponsors. In the eyes of this Congress, deficits and adding to the national debt is bad – unless it’s a bailout to a bank or an insurance company or an industry that has you and your party in their back pocket.

CHIP is a good – and necessary – program. It even originated from a Republican Congress! But this Congress and President made their intentions clear with their recently approved tax reform plan. The only constituency that matters is the top 1%. And the only plan they have to deal with inevitable deficits and expanding federal debt is to slash funding from Social Security and Medicaid programs like CHIP.

Stay classy, Congress. Stay classy.

End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.