By Dave Zweifel
The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.), March 23, 2013
For the 11th straight year, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers has introduced what he calls the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act to establish a universal, single-payer health care system in the United States similar to what exists in most developed countries throughout the world.
Conyers’ plan is the real health care reform that the United States, if its politicians weren’t so beholden to special interests, would have adopted decades ago.
Instead, we are struggling with more jury-rigged reform that allows governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to play cynical political games to make it as complicated as possible.
Obamacare is surely better than anything we’ve had up until now and once it is fully implemented will remove millions of Americans from the rolls of the uninsured.
But a single-payer plan is still the way the nation ought to go. Everyone in the country would have health care from the day they’re born to the day they die. Conyers would essentially expand the single-payer Medicare program for senior citizens to include everyone in the country.
It would cover primary care, inpatient and outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, long-term and palliative care, mental health services, dental services, vision and hearing.
Conyers, who was joined by 37 other House members, would provide that private hospitals, physicians and other health providers could continue to operate as private nonprofit entities, but they would no longer be investor-owned. Hospitals, health centers and other health care organizations would be paid a monthly lump sum within a global budget to cover all operating expenses while physicians would be paid fee-for-service payments or offered regular salaries.
Under the Michigan congressman’s plan, a trust fund would be established to fund the Medicare for All program. The fund would include existing sources of federal government spending for health care, increase personal income taxes on the top 5 percent of income earners and institute modest payroll tax increases. That total is expected to be less than the premiums and health care expenses currently borne by companies and individuals.
Conyers’ plan has little chance of going anywhere, but one of these days perhaps the country will wake up to finally making health care a right of U.S. citizenship.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.