BY JIM HIGHTOWER
Believe it or not, we can get Congress to enact a new program providing good quality, lower-cost health care for your family and [what the hell, let’s think big here] for every man, woman and [especially] every child in our society.
Step One: eliminate every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that now covers platinum-level health insurance for all 535 members of Congress and their families. Let those laissez-faire ideologues who have saddled us with an exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional and [let’s admit it] sick system of medical profiteering experience what they’ve wrought, without any government pampering. This includes shutting down their “Office of the Attending Physician,” a little-known spot of pure, 100% socialized medicine conveniently located in our U.S. Capitol to provide a full range of government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones.
A seriously sick child, a car wreck, a cancer diagnosis – and suddenly the civilized idea of Medicare for All will start making sense even to anti-government, you’re-on-your-own Republican ideologues.
Well, you might say, they still won’t feel the pain, because they’re one-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance. Ah, but here comes Step Two: put all of our congressional goof-offs on piece-rate, pay-for-performance salaries.
Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not? For example, American babies are more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people. So, every year that the U.S. Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people, not for their ideological purity.
When Congress finally assures good health care for all of us, then its members would get the same coverage. But until they deliver for the whole public, the public owes them nothing.
It’s true that America is No. 1 in health care, but before erupting in chants of “USA! USA!” – note that we’re only No. 1 in health care spending. Ouch.
Our country lays out more per person for health insurance and out-of-pocket payments than any other advanced nation on the planet – nearly $10,000 a year for each of us. Germany, Canada, Australia, England, Japan, Poland and all other advanced democracies pay only a fraction of that – yet their people get far better care, are healthier and live longer than our people.
That’s because they have nationwide, public health insurance systems providing comprehensive coverage for everyone while eliminating 25% to 30% of every health care dollar that profiteering insurance corporations take for their administrative and advertising costs, exorbitant profits and executive pay, paperwork and waste.
Why don’t we Americans have such an efficient and effective system? We do: Medicare! It’s a proven no-hassle, quality care for each of America’s senior citizens. It works!
But what about children, young people and the middle-aged … the majority of our people? Glad you asked.
Sen. Bernie Sanders [along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and 14 others] have just introduced the “Medicare for All” act, extending this successful commonsense program to everyone.
Sanders’ proposal [like Rep. John Conyers’ bill in the U.S. House] will cut the health care costs paid by typical working families from some $6,200 a year to $466. It’ll also cut out the complexity and stress of getting the care you need – just go to any private doctor you choose, show your public insurance card and – Bingo – you’re in! No more co-pays, deductibles or fighting with corporate insurance bureaucrats trying to keep you out.
Learn more about Bernie’s Medicare for All plan to create a people’s health care system!
– Jim Hightower’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer