The Center for American Progress recently released a plan for a path to universal healthcare coverage, loosely known as “Medicare Extra.” While this plan would address some shortcomings of our current healthcare system, it would continue to burden Arkansans with unnecessary costs that they cannot afford.
This plan would include provisions for dental/vision/hearing coverage, long-term care, and generic prescription drugs. Medicare Extra would also eventually roll Medicaid/CHIP into the larger program plan.
These policy initiatives represent a significant advance in modern mainstream Democratic thought. Medicare Extra is a comprehensive publicly financed plan with standardized benefits available to the public across all age ranges. The fact that this centrist Democratic think tank has moved their policy significantly in the direction of single-payer healthcare shows how accepted policy can quickly change for the better. This move was only made possible by progressives unflinchingly fighting for a truly universal, single-payer system across decades.
While Medicare Extra is a well-thought out improvement on the current healthcare system, its overall structure and design would be inadequate for the millions that already pay excessive premiums or go without vital care altogether. I have consistently believed that you don’t begin a campaign at the compromise position.
Our campaign knows that a clear commitment to a “people over profits” policy position makes it clear to the American public the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. In order to craft a healthcare system that addresses the pervasive inadequacies most Arkansans face, we must not cater to or try to appease the largest lobbyist group in Washington: the for-profit healthcare industry. We believe that our supporters—and the majority of Arkansans—expect more from a candidate who rejects all special interest influence. That’s why we will not waver from our support of single-payer Medicare For All.
Medicare Extra Maintains Wasteful Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Extra permanently ensconces wasteful, for-profit Medicare Advantage plans and for-profit employer-based plans as a concession to the insurance companies. This will force American taxpayers and premium payers to continue to subsidize the wasteful insurance industry, which raises administrative costs, imposes restrictive networks, increases bureaucratic, costly, and burdensome paperwork for providers, and does not return any value to Americans above what the proposed public Medicare Extra plan would offer.
The extra expense involved in allowing the wasteful overhead of Medicare Advantage plans could undermine the very efficiencies that are necessary to make universal coverage affordable in a single-payer system. And when the numbers don’t add up, patient co-pays and deductibles will become increasingly burdensome, again restricting people’s guarantee to care.
Maintaining a multi-payer system with Medicare Advantage plans would turn Medicare Extra into the de-facto high-risk pool for sicker Americans, while healthier individuals would be lured into Medicare Advantage plans through aggressive marketing strategies. This strategy would fail as it would create a two-tiered system in which the “public option” is poorly funded and poorly protected. We believe the American taxpayers should not have to subsidize the insurance industry’s profits.
Medicare Extra Is Not Free At the Point-of-Service
Medicare Extra is not free at the point-of-service for those making greater than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (a family of 4 making over $36,900 a year), meaning that patients would continue to have co-pays and deductibles. These cost burdens would prove barriers to access for many families. The average family in Arkansas’s Second District makes about $45,000 per year, so they would be subject to these co-pays and deductibles.
I support National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) as laid out in H.R. 676, which would provide a single standard of care for all—meaning the working class, the middle class, upper class, and all lawmakers. I believe the motivation of lawmakers would change significantly if they were required to have the same care as the American people.
National Improved Medicare For All is free at the point-of-service for all people, due to of the efficiencies of decreased overhead expenses allowed by only having one payer. Instead of just subsidizing large corporations, we should make the government work for the citizens. To say that we cannot afford a plan that reduces waste would require us to ignore the corporate give-a-aways that Representative French Hill and his fellow Republicans pass, such as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” which added $1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt in order to reward corporations and political donors.
Medicare For All Is Feasible, Affordable, and Broadly Popular
We have seen the decades-long attempts to weaken and underfund Medicaid and the Medicaid Expansion programs, especially in the South because it is “for poor people.” If there is one system for all Americans, efforts to divide and weaken the essential guarantees of healthcare will not gain a foothold. Programs designed for poor people are poor programs, meaning they are the first services to be cut and the first to be targeted for decreased funding.
Medicare For All enjoys widespread popularity among the American public, with 60% of the general public, 75% of Democrats, and 46% of Republicans. The for-profit healthcare industry knows this level of support is something that they must fight against to maintain their hold on the Washington establishment.
As the richest country in the history of the world, we must fight to make our government work for all of us by crafting a plan in which everybody is in and nobody is out. That plan must be single-payer Medicare For All, because it is feasible, it is affordable, and it is fair.