00Universal Health Care Coverage
As a family doctor, health care has been my life’s work. I have seen what happens when people do not have health insurance, and we cannot go back. A mature society takes care of its needy, its sick, its hungry, its homeless. Health care is a right, and it is time we joined the rest of the civilized world in acknowledging this truth.
I support a universal health coverage solution that reduces administrative costs, ensures that all Americans have health insurance, and reduces the role of private health insurance companies. To get there, I propose the following treatment plan for the American health care system:
- Fix the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. We need to take immediate steps to stabilize insurance markets, such as guaranteeing the payment of subsidies required under the law. We should also fix the loophole that prevented Medicaid from being expanded in all 50 states.
- Begin an incremental, targeted rollout of a publicly funded option for health insurance. This should begin in areas with no private insurance options, then quickly expand to areas with only one private insurer.
- Encourage each state to set up a state-run public option that meets or exceeds minimum federal guidelines. States know their populations better than the federal government, and should have the opportunity to come up with a more efficient system that works for the residents of that state. The U.S. public option should serve primarily as a backup.
- Pass legislation that reduces or eliminates the perverse incentives of for-profit healthcare. This will include eliminating tax loopholes and designing new, more efficient regulations.
- Ensure that all Americans are covered by either a state public option, the U.S. backup option, or a private plan. Ensure that transitions between these three plan types are swift and effortless. In this way, we can simultaneously reduce the skyrocketing costs of health care while improving the quality of care given.
In Medicare, 99 percent of expenditures go to providers and patients—only 1 percent goes to administrative overhead. In for-profit health care, administrative costs are up to twenty times higher due to multimillion-dollar CEO salaries and dividends to investors. The cost of Medicare could be reduced further by simplifying it and getting rid of unnecessary regulations, but the cost of private health care could be reduced enormously by lowering administrative costs.
I am strongly against privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
As a nation, we need to get away from the idea that the free market will fix everything. That’s not true, and it’s especially not true about health care. Health care isn’t a commodity, where the price is the most important factor in the buying decision. And no one—especially the poor—should have to worry about the price of a lifesaving operation being too expensive for their budget.
At our first health care town hall, Dr. Joe Jarvis gave this example: If they lower the price on BMWs, demand for those cars will go up. That doesn’t happen with open-heart surgery. Or chemotherapy. The same number of people want those medical services no matter what the price is—because if they don’t have it, they could die. As Dr. Jarvis said, “No one ever got an appendectomy because it was on sale!”