Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My new favorite Member of Congress

This morning, while drinking my “morning Joe” and watching the MSNBC TV show by the same name, I saw my new favorite member of Congress. He is Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from Brooklyn, New York. I assure you my admiration for Congressman Weiner has nothing to do with the fact that I am also a native Brooklynite. My admiration for Mr. Weiner comes from his cogent defense of the “Medicare for All” proposal. Medicare for all would work like this. Currently the government-financed Medicare program pays for healthcare for Americans age 65 and above. “Medicare for all” would lower the eligibility age to birth. Even people without jobs would have access to health care. Your employer would be relieved of the responsibility of providing health insurance, and if you changed your job you would no longer have to change your doctors.

Medicare for all currently lacks the 218 votes needed to pass the House of Representatives. I talked with Congressman John Conyers of Michigan about the proposal back in the spring of this year. As of that time there were 86 co-sponsors (including Conyers and Weiner). It’s an even bigger long-shot in the Senate. The politics are too complicated. But, the policy is sound. Several months ago at the beginning of the healthcare reform process a fellow patron at my barbershop (knowing I am a health policy professor and believing my job title meant that I knew something about health policy) asked me how I thought healthcare reform would turn out. My answer then as now is: We will probably pass something this year that will be a slight improvement (for example disallowing health insurance companies from declining people for coverage because of preexisting health conditions), but the 2009 “reforms” will not address the major healthcare problems (rapidly raising costs, too many Americans without access, inadequate quality, and inequality in access and quality), then we will muddle along for 20 more years before we are finally left to conclude what Congressmen Conyers, Weiner and at least 84 others have already figured out. Medicare for all, while imperfect, is the best option.