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Medicare for all is the right path for improving health care

Poll after poll show few people like or want Trumpcare, aka the American Health Care Act. The AHCA is staunchly opposed by patient advocacy groups and professional organizations alike.

Organizations that condemn it as “a patchwork of bad ideas based on uninformed ideology disguised as policy” include the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, and patient advocacy groups, such as AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and many others.

But Republican leaders have recklessly ignored their warnings and chosen not to hear any public testimony. These politicians are willing to do enormous damage to our health care system while actively dismissing any input from the people who actually care for patients, or from patients themselves. If the AHCA manages to squeak through the U.S. Senate after its gestation behind closed doors and without public hearings or CBO scoring, millions of people will lose their health insurance, and pre-existing conditions will become a huge problem all over again.

Republicans, determined to destroy Obamacare for the past eight years, have never bothered to do the hard work of coming up with a better plan that actually lowers costs, insures more people and improves care. They don’t have a better plan. They’ve been far more concerned about lifting restrictions on “free market” health care that will benefit for-profit health industries and the Republicans’ wealthy and privileged political backers.

It’s ironic that much of what they are trying so hard to repeal was originally a conservative Republican plan, similar to a proposal crafted in the early 1990s by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. Many of the same ideas, including mechanisms such as an individual mandate to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was signed into law in Massachusetts by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney back in 2006.

So it’s terrific that Democratic leaders are blasting Trumpcare every chance they get, but merely criticizing it isn’t enough. We still have a health care crisis in America. Businesses are struggling to afford good coverage for their employees, millions of people remain without insurance, and premiums and co-pays are rising astronomically. But there’s one part of our patchwork health care system that works very well and provides coverage to everyone who is eligible: Medicare, the health insurance plan for those over age 65. That’s why smart, compassionate folks here in Rochester and across the country are supporting Medicare for All in larger numbers than ever before.

Here in New York, for the third year in a row, a Medicare for All bill has passed the state Assembly by a wide majority, and 31 state senators currently support it. Universal health care is at the top of our statewide progressive agenda, and we are just one Senate co-sponsor away from a vote.

Nationally, 112 members of Congress—a majority of the Democratic caucus— are co-sponsors of Medicare for All (H.R. 676), a much larger number than ever before. Multiple recent polls, including Gallup, Pew Research, Economist, Kaiser and others, all show the same thing: a majority of respondents are in favor of Medicare for All.

Every single compassionate person in the country who condemns Trumpcare should not only defend the best parts of Obamacare but start fighting for Medicare for All. Many wealthy developed nations in the world have universal health care.

It is a lie that we can’t afford universal health care. No nation in the world spends more money on health care and prescription drugs than we do right now. We spend over 17 percent of our entire GDP on health care —the highest rate in the developed world, and we get far less for our money.

Americans are sicker and die sooner than much of the rest of the developed world. If we spent our money smarter, with less going to exorbitant profit and unnecessary administrative overhead and waste, we too could have universal health care. We should have it. It’s the best option there is, and it is the right thing to do.

Medicare for All is the biggest, boldest, best idea we’ve got, and it’s time to support it.

Theodore Brown is professor of history, medical humanities, and the Phelps Professor of Public Health and Policy at the University of Rochester. Susan Ladwig is senior research and quality improvement coordinator at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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