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WE CAN DO BETTER
In the United States:
A Failed Model
The corporate model of health care has already failed. It has failed to control costs, failed to provide choice of doctors, and even failed to maintain quality of care. It has succeeded only in providing profits to insurers by shifting costs to the insured. Medicare HMOs, touted as the salvation of Medicare a few years ago, were not allowed to shift costs to the insured, so many have simply stopped trying to compete with regular Medicare coverage.
The standard Medicare program is far from perfect. People covered by it would certainly benefit from real prescription drug coverage. Yet with all its flaws, the government administers Medicare for less than 5 cents out of each dollar while private insurance spends 25 % of premiums on administrative expenses. Facts show the superior efficiency of the "free market" is, in this case, just a myth.
The Real Alternative
We think universal health care can succeed where the corporate model has failed. By this, we mean non-profit health insurance for everybody in America. It should be financed by taxes, administered by the government rather than a profit-seeking corporation, and subject to public scrutiny. Ordinary workers, unemployed people and children should have the same coverage as Senators, executives and so on.
A suitable program might be called a national health plan, or single-payer health insurance, or Medicare for All. The name of the program is not important. So long as it is democratically controlled, the initial plan can be adjusted as needed.
Business that provide health insurance for their employees typically pay 9 to 10 percent of their payroll for it. Wage earners pay about 2.2 percent of income into Medicare. If a 9 percent payroll tax were levied on all employers, and the Medicare income tax were converted to a universal health care tax, that would be an adequate basis for financing universal health care.
The difference would be the 43 million left out would be in; your insurance would not be tied to your job; pre-existing conditions or genetic predispositions would no longer cost you your job or your insurance; and a catastrophic illness in the family would not become a financial catastrophe for the entire family.
Health Care Should be a Right
This country has the wealth and the technology to make it a right. In Canada, for instance, health care is a right. Canadians live longer and have better outcomes after serious illnesses such as cancer and heart attacks. The cost per patient in Canada is 2/3 of the cost in the US. If they can do it, we can do it.
We believe a majority of the population would prefer universal health care over the uneconomic, unfair, unreliable, undemocratic and entirely unsatisfactory patchwork of the worn-out corporate model. The problem is in getting the bulk of our elected officials to serve their constituents instead of serving corporations that finance elections.
The Bush Plan
George Bush, elected President by the 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court, has revealed his plans for health care with his very first proposed budget.
In essence, he wants to turn both Medicare and Social Security from social insurance programs into voucher programs. Rich and poor alike will be allowed to use their vouchers, in combination with whatever private funds they have, to purchase whatever coverage they can afford. This promises a windfall for private insurance companies, from which the Bush team has learned about shifting costs and risk to the individual.
It is tempting to just spend the four years of the Bush regime struggling to preserve the social insurance programs we have. MichUHCAN members think that organizing for universal health care is the best way to preserve and protect Medicare for us all.
Organizing for Change
MichUHCAN holds regular public meetings to discuss the facets of this issue. We send speakers and literature to meetings of interested groups. We also set up our literature table at any appropriate local events that we can manage. We maintain a web site with a collection of factual, informative articles and useful links. We do networking and coalition work with anyone who will have us. We are searching for ways to do more.
If you agree with us but are not interested in joining our group just now, please still do something. Write a letter to your local paper or your congressman. Talk to people at work, in your church or temple or mosque, in your neighborhood. Mention it to your doctor or nurse. If you are a doctor or nurse, mention it to your patients. Every bit helps.
If you are ready to learn more and to do more, please come to one of our meetings. We need your fresh ideas and energy. Together, we can do more.
If you agree with these goals, you should be part of the fight to achieve them. And it is a fight. Corporate money controls political policy on this issue - until we speak up, loud and clear. Please add your voice.