Universal Health Care: Let’s Do It!

I am not an economist. But I am a strong advocate for universal access to healthcare in the United States. See why here.

A couple of days ago, Thom Hartmann at The Big Picture RT posted a YouTube video on why economists are demanding a universal national healthcare plan. In this video he reports that more than 100 economists sent an open letter to Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin (D) after Shumlin “bailed” on implementing Vermont’s state-based single-payer healthcare plan.

Governor Shumlin stated that he was stopping the implementation process because he believes that “This is not the right time” for enacting single payer. He stated that there were too many costs associated with the program and could not go forward with the plan “at this time.”

The economists argued otherwise:

As economists, we understand that universal, publicly financed health care is not only economically feasible but highly preferable to a fragmented market-based insurance system…. Public financing is not a matter of raising new money, but of distributing existing payments more equitably and efficiently. Especially when combined with provider payment reforms, public financing can lower administrative costs, share health care cost much more equitably, and ensure comprehensive care for all.

We support publicly and equitably financed health care at federal and state level, and we encourage the government of the state of Vermont to move forward with implementing a public financing plan for the universal health care system envisioned by state law.

Hartman then goes on to say that part of the economic concerns about Vermont’s single-payer healthcare plan arises from its small population base. He believes that the economy of scale makes it harder for a small state to go it alone in “innovating” new healthcare plans as allowed by the Affordable Care Act starting in 2017. Then he goes on to urge the federal government to expand Medicare to all citizens over a 10-year period of time.

I agree that it would be great to have universal Medicare for All across the United States. But I also believe that the only way that will happen is if some states implement single-payer healthcare at a state level to concretely show that a universal healthcare plan is economically viable and distributes existing healthcare payments more efficiently and equitably while lowering administrative costs WITHOUT raising the overall cost to individuals, businesses or communities. In fact, in many instances, cost would be lower.

Studies on how this might happen have been done by well-known economists across the country. For example, Dr. Gerald  Friedman, Professor of Economics and Department Head at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has done several of these studies, including one for Pennsylvania, one for Maryland, and one for expanding Medicare to all at the national level. Every economic impact study on implementing universal healthcare plans that I have read indicates that “A single-payer health care finance system would produce substantial health and economic gains” when implemented at either a state or the national level.

At least 14 statesCalifornia, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington—have community advocates and state legislators working towards implementing a state-level form of universal healthcare. And advocates across the nation continue to work for Medicare for All at the national level.

Whichever way comes first is fine with me. We just need to get moving and create healthcare for all in the USA.  Let’s make it sooner rather than later.

Calling for Marriage Equality

Last Monday (October 21), New Jersey became the fourteenth state to grant lesbian and gay couples the right to marry.  This declaration came through the New Jersey Supreme Court on Friday, October 18 when the Court stated that same-sex couples could marry while the state’s appeal to uphold the ban proceeded through the court.  On Monday, October 21, Governor Chris Christie withdrew the state’s appeal asking the court to uphold the state ban on same-sex marriage; his administration released a statement that said, “The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”

While all of this was going on, the New Jersey General Assembly was once again attempting to pass a veto-proof marriage equality bill because in February 2012 Governor Christie had vetoed the original marriage equality bill and we expected that he would the bill again.  So many people around the country were calling constituents of persuadable legislators to vote for the bill.  With both decisions by the Supreme Court and Governor Christie, the phone calling into New Jersey ended.

Meanwhile, a similar bill for marriage equality is pending in Illinois. And like in New Jersey, the vote for the right to marry is close.  The bill passed the Illinois Senate on February 14, 2013 with 34 yeas and 21 nays; it is now up for a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives. And like in New Jersey, supporters of marriage equality are calling into the state to educate constituents about the bill and ask them to call their Representative to vote yes on Senate Bill 10.

The organization coordinating the calls is the National Equity Action Team (NEAT),a coalition of national, state, and local organizations and individuals who mobilize to win the freedom to marry in states with active marriage equality campaigns.”  The coalition organizations include:

NEAT is organizing phone banks two to three times a week for equal access to marriage.  Some of the phone banks are land-based groups of people making calls together at one site (usually NYC, Raleigh, NC, and several sites throughout IL); others are phone calling from the privacy of their homes and are being made throughout the US.

Joanne Phone Banking for Marriage Equality

Joanne Tosti-Vasey making phone calls into New Jersey on October 3, 2013

I have made these calls three times so far. Two were calls into New Jersey and one, so far, was into Illinois.  The first evening I did the calls with several NOW members of my local NOW chapter – Ni-Ta-Nee NOW.  The rest of the calls were made from the privacy of my home.

You too can call for Marriage Equality.  Just go to http://theneat.org and then click on the Volunteer button at the top of the page. The volunteer pages list several opportunities – some group calls and some home-based phone banking through November 10 as of right now.  Check your calendar, click on the dates and times you are available, fill out the information form, and you are on your way!  NEAT will then email you with the details and will provide and computer- and phone-based training.

Join me.  And call for Marriage Equality. Thanks.