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Improve Medicare to cover everyone

Published: 4/20/2020 9:06:21 AM

With COVID-19 rapidly rising every day and unemployment growing exponentially, we cannot afford to wait another day. Isn’t it bad enough to lose your job without losing your health care, too?

More than 22 million Americans have applied for unemployment insurance in the last month. When they lost their jobs, most also lost their health insurance, and joined the 30 million who already had none — in the middle of a pandemic.

All these people need to be covered right away. The medical expenses incurred in this crisis will be an estimated 40% higher than usual. Clearly, we cannot afford to continue paying a 30% surtax on medical bills for corporate health insurers’ overhead, to maintain an army of middle managers between us and our doctors. We need a simpler, more cost-effective system with guaranteed, comprehensive health care for everyone for life.

Fortunately, we know a well-tested solution: Medicare. Improve it to cover 100% of care and expand it to cover everyone. As a unified public program, it’s simpler and it’s accountable to its patients and providers, not to investors. It has a 2% overhead, a much better deal than 30%.

Medicare is not “government-run.” Doctors and hospitals remain in private hands. Only the way they are paid is public. With Medicare for All, health care would no longer be tied to our jobs. We would no longer face bewildering choices among inadequate and unaffordable insurance policies.

Instead, we would get to really choose our doctors and hospitals. Gone would be networks and “out-of-network” surprise billing. Our current state of emergency gives the commonwealth an opportunity to lead. There is already a bill on Beacon Hill to establish Medicare for All for Massachusetts (MA S693/H1194) and a large legislative caucus supporting it.

This bill will help businesses get back on their feet after the pandemic by saving them money and assuring them of a healthy workforce. If political will for a national health plan is lacking, let’s start in the state.

It will help us get past this epidemic and give us a better, more sustainable system to fight the next one. Enact it now for healing and for our economic recovery.

Barbara Pearson


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