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  • Jerry Oljace

Medicare for All: What is it? Do we want it?

Well, that depends on what we mean by it. For Republicans, it means socialism or a government takeover of health care. In contrast, all of the Democratic presidential candidates favor expanding health insurance coverage for everyone. The candidates do, however, differ in how they would accomplish that. This article provides a helpful overview of Medicare for All (M4A), and where the candidates stand on important questions of how the program would work.

And, one of the more contentious questions may be, “What should happen to private insurance?” For Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the short answer is, “Essentially get rid of it.” They support an approach where private insurance would be eventually phased out and replaced by a government-run program; which would provide comprehensive coverage for medical, prescription drug, mental health, dental and vision services, all at minimal out-of-pocket cost to those covered.

To help better frame M4A, let’s take a quick trip back to 2016. You may recall that then-presidential candidate Sanders called for “single payer” (now being referred to by its more polling-friendly term, “Medicare for All”) as the central component of his health care plan. Following his unsuccessful primary battle, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was eager to ease intraparty tension and woo Sanders and his supporters by awarding him seats on the party platform-drafting committee. However, despite Sanders’ strong efforts, the committee voted not to include any mention of single payer in its official document, believing it to be too politically risky, or too far to the left.

Now, leap forward three years from that time – yes, an eternity in politics. M4A (the “version” that eliminates private health insurance) is now the central health care platform for two of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. My, how things have changed!

If you’re interested in a more in-depth examination of how M4A went from “impossible” to “achievable,” we refer you to this excellent piece, written by Robert Draper for The New York Times Magazine, “How ‘Medicare for All’ Went Mainstream.” Yes, it’s a bit lengthy, but we believe you’ll find it to be a worthwhile read.

As always, we’d like to hear from you. Let’s start with a quick poll on your preferred health care model. Please select one of the following four options (A, B, C or D) below, and e-mail your response to: northvilledems@gmail.com. We’ll share the results at our next Membership meeting on Monday, September 23rd, where we will also have a lively, open discussion on M4A. We look forward to seeing all of you then!


A. I like Bernie and Elizabeth’s M4A plan! Those CEO’s make too much money, and why the heck is our health care system being held captive by profit-hungry health insurance and pharmaceutical companies anyway?

B. Option A. is a bit intense for me. Instead, let’s offer a “public option” by expanding Medicare eligibility, and let people buy into it – if they want to.

C. I’d prefer a more incremental approach. Our current system isn’t perfect, but it’s okay. Perhaps we could just do some “tweaks” to help strengthen Obamacare and provide greater consumer health care protections (e.g., for pre-existing health conditions).

D. Do nothing. Yes, I know health care is important, but it’s not the most important issue we face in the upcoming elections. Instead, we should be focusing our energies and efforts on _____________________.


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