Medicare For All

By Jill Zorn |

Today, we introduce our new blog series on Medicare for All.

If you believe that health care is a human right, Medicare for All is the logical goal.

At Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, we believe that good health and access to quality, affordable health care is a basic human right and is fundamental to achieving social and economic justice.

In 2017, we wrote a series of four blogs on Getting to Single Payer.  Now, just two years later, the term “Medicare for All” is more commonly used than “single payer”.  And, reflecting that change in language, the landscape has also changed significantly.

Now, more than in previous years, a national conversation is underway about Medicare for All. The public discussion is heating up partly because there is a huge, electoral contest underway regarding who will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.  During the first two rounds of candidate debates, disagreements about Medicare for All and its features received a lot of air time, often in ways that were confusing and not very constructive, rather than informative.

But the conversation is also occurring because many Americans are unhappy with their current health care coverage or are worried they won’t be able to afford coverage or access care if and when they need it in the future.  In many ways, it feels like we are going backwards.  The gains achieved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are under assault via the courts and through continued sabotage by the Trump Administration.

Even those with employer-sponsored insurance feel insecure about their health coverage. As deductibles and out-of-pocket payments increase, far more people are finding health care unaffordable – they are underinsuredPrescription drug costs are going through the roof.  People are avoiding care or seeking it too late, or are finding themselves with medical debt they can’t pay off.

Those who care about health policy are getting involved in the Medicare for All movement.  The performance of the US health care system is dismal when compared with other countries.  We spend twice as much on health care as any other high income countries, but have the worst health outcomes.  Clearly the current system is very broken and Medicare for All could be the solution we need to bring us in alignment with the performance of other countries.

Finally, the health care justice community, which never stopped talking about and fighting for universal health care, is extremely engaged in the Medicare for All discussion.  Some advocates see themselves as “pragmatists” and approach getting to the goal of quality, affordable health care for everyone through important, but incremental changes.  They see Medicare for All supporters as “idealists,” who support policies that will never become law in our current political environment.  Furthermore, they fear that promoting bold change could lead to political losses, making even incremental change impossible.

On the other hand, Medicare for All proponents believe we must push the envelope and fight for a policy that actually achieves universal health care in the near future.  Too much compromising could mean we will never reach the goal, and now is not the time to shut down a discussion about what we really need.

Unfortunately, disputes, even among advocates who share the same goals, can get ugly sometimes and can lead to unproductive finger-pointing or fuel oppositional messaging.

Our blog series intends to dig deeper on both the policy and political controversies that swirl around Medicare for All. We will lay out the range of bills that have been introduced in Congress as well the proposals that are emerging from candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And we will highlight how policy differences are in many cases rooted much more in political disagreements than in actual disagreement about what an ideal system would look like.

We hope the series sparks a robust, informed and productive (not destructive!) discussion about Medicare for All, and also inspires you to join us as we work to achieve health care justice for everyone.