Exploring Human Potential

Compassionate Capitalists Debate “Medicare-For-All.”

Posted on | October 17, 2019 | Comments Off on Compassionate Capitalists Debate “Medicare-For-All.”

Mike Magee

As this week’s Democratic debate well-illustrated, the issue of “Medicare-for-all” still ignites passion and was actively contested by 12 compassionate capitalists. By now, strong majorities of Americans support access to health services as a right, universal coverage, and protections against discriminatory expulsion from coverage due to prior conditions. How we get there, and how we pay for it remains controversial.

If there is a face for a “compassionate capitalist”, many would drop in the wise visage of Warren Buffett who famously declared “Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.”

Others have stated it differently while agreeing with results of the 2018 Bloomberg health efficiency index placing the U.S. dead last. The problem is systemic and nearly everyone knows it by now. Legendary Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt said as much declaring  “At international health care conferences, arguing that a certain proposed policy would drive some country’s system closer to the U.S. model usually is the kiss of death.”

If most experts are there, where is the rest of the American public when it comes to a fundamental reboot of our inequitable and wasteful system focused on cure over care and profit over just about everything else?

The quick answer is, “They’re moving left at a pretty fast clip.”  That’s the underlying message in a 2019 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report stated that “Medicare-for-all starts with net favorability rating of +14 percentage points (56% who favor it, minus 42% who oppose it). This jumps to +45 percentage points when people hear the argument that this type of plan would guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans.”

And this included growing Republican support. Look at these numbers:

  • 77 percent of the public, including most Republican (69%), favor allowing people between the ages of 50 to 64 to buy health insurance through Medicare;
  • 75 percent, including most Republicans (64%), favor allowing people who aren’t covered by their employer to buy insurance through their state’s Medicaid program;
  • 74 percent, including nearly half of Republicans (47%), favor a national government plan like Medicare that is open to anyone, but also would allow people to keep the coverage they have if they want to; and
  • 56 percent, including nearly a quarter of Republicans (23%), favor a national plan called Medicare-for-all in which all Americans would get their insurance through a single government plan.

What are the concerns?

First, cost in the form of higher taxes. Most want to be assured that there will be substantial front end savings with universal coverage. That means simplifying insurance billing so that we no longer have 16 people employed for every physician in America.

Second, efficiency. Americans need to be reassured that universal coverage will not fundamentally undermine basic access to essential services.

Third, lower drug costs. People have grown tired of their politicians protecting well-heeled donors. They want action.

What would break the log jam in currently drugged-up America?

First, outlaw direct-to-consumer advertising like every other developed nation in the world. The days of creating a drug market and then selling into it need to come to an end.

Second, reference pricing of pharmaceuticals like Canada and European nations do. Set our prices so they come in line with the rest of the world.

Third, don’t buy the innovation argument from a medical-industrial complex that has over-promised and under-delivered while padding executives pockets. Trust me – American innovation can stand on its own two feet without systematically breaking the financial backs of average American families.


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