President Jimmy Carter: “A Call To Action”

The Diane Rehm Show, March 26, 2014

Diane Rehm: Briefly, how do you feel about the Affordable Care Act?

President Jimmy Carter: I was disappointed the way it was done and the complexity that it assumed. Instead of taking a leadership role from the White House and saying, “This is what we think is best,” they had five different congressional committees do it and it got, I think, the lowest common denominator, which is the most complex system. I would really have favored just the expansion of Medicare to include all ages, rather than just to deal with old people.

Video (38 second clip of quote above; also full 51 minute video):http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-03-26/president-jimmy-carter-call…

Characterizing the Affordable Care Act as “the lowest common denominator – the most complex system,” President Jimmy Carter tells us that he would have favored “the expansion of Medicare to include all ages.”

He’s right, and here’s why. There have been numerous analyses of multiple models of reform. Most of them have included a model that would build on our private insurance system and expand Medicaid, just as is found in the Affordable Care Act. Of these analyses, this is the most expensive model and it falls short on important goals such as universality, equity, administrative efficiency, and affordability.

In contrast, single payer is the least expensive of the effective models and achieves virtually all of the goals of reform. An improved version of Medicare that is expanded to include everyone would be such a model. A health service model – socialized medicine – would also work, but the nation is still too leery of that much government involvement. The popularity of Medicare indicates that this is about the level of government involvement that most would support.

We have to keep reminding Americans that the exchanges are marketing private insurance – not government insurance, so they cannot confuse a government exchange with government insurance. In fact, the exchanges are prohibited from even including a government “public option” (which wouldn’t have worked anyway since the rest of the fragmented, dysfunctional system would have been left in place). Those who defend the private Medicare Advantage plans have to be reminded that they burn up more taxpayer dollars for administration and profits while depriving patients of choice because of their limited networks of providers. Once payment between government Medicare and private Medicare Advantage is equalized, the the private insurers cannot possibly compete with the government program because of their inherent inefficiencies. This was already proven by the failure of the Medicare + Choice plans that preceded Medicare Advantage.

It’s too bad that Jimmy Carter didn’t start talking about Medicare for all when he was president. It might have been helpful if the public had had a few decades to think about it before we got to the point that legislation could be passed. They could have pressured the politicians to do it right.