By Bill Knight
Peoria Journal Star, Feb. 12, 2019
From last Saturday through this Wednesday, the National Nurses United labor union has been leading a coast-to-coast effort to strengthen the already-substantial public support for Medicare for All, and to lobby lawmakers to represent their constituents in passing this logical reform.
Medicare for All (M4A) is ‘single-payer’ health care where all Americans would get health coverage from private providers paid by government. M4A would improve the popular Medicare program for the elderly and expand it to cover everyone. Advocates say it would omit insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays and private insurers and their huge profits, and save workers, businesses and consumers billions of dollars.
Health care’s high costs, lousy coverage and lack of options isn’t news, but within 72 hours early last month, three reports sparked renewed interest in the increasingly feasible Medicare for All: price hikes for various drugs, health-care reforms in developing countries, and the first Congressional hearing on Medicare for All (M4A).
Three dozen pharmaceutical companies raised prices on hundreds of prescription medicines an average of 6.3 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported; Bolivian president Evo Morales announced the launch next month of free universal health care there; and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approved of the Budget and Rules Committees’ hearings on Medicare for All.
‒ Americans support Medicare for All, according to polls by Reuters, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard/Politico, all of which show about 70 percent approval, including 64 percent of Republicans.
‒ Such single-payer care is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and many labor groups, plus the NAACP, the National Farmers Union, the National Organization for Women, the Green Party, and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
‒ Studies indicate Medicare for All over the next decade could mean spending trillions of dollars LESS than current health-care spending.
“Additional taxes that a person would pay annually are far less than the average person is paying in premiums to insurance companies,” said Dr. Pamella Gronemeyer, a physician and small businesswoman in Highland, Ill., active in the Illinois Single Payer Coalition. “Also, the savings created by a system that spends money for health care and not administrative costs is indisputable. Medicare operates on an overhead of 2 to 3 percent; the overhead of private insurance companies is around 20 percent.
“We can make Medicare better without copays and deductibles if we include the whole nation and all age groups,” she continues. “Many fear that if they give up their employer health benefits, they will get worse care. This is not true. As a Medicare enrollee, I have my choice of physicians and health-care facilities; I know that the bills will be paid; and patients and providers are not pitted against each other.”
Politically, legislators should recognize that issues that may be initially controversial eventually can be embraced by society, said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Chicago), a Bradley University graduate and member of Congress’ Medicare for All Caucus.
“Medicare faced considerable resistance immediately prior to its passage [in 1965],” Kelly said. “It has now become a staple upon which millions of Americans rely. Many other developed countries had some form of social insurance that eventually evolved into national insurance for nearly as long as the United States has wrestled with the concept.”
Dr. Gronemeyer adds that the move to a system already used by most industrialized countries would also be good for the United States as a nation.
“The country is only as well as the state of health of the sickest and weakest,” Dr. Gronemeyer said. “Medicare for All is the most economically affordable, equitable and patriotic health care for this country.”