Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care

lbj-phoneMomentum for universal health care is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.

But, as you know, the worst news came days ago when the Congressional Budget Office weighed in with awful projections about how much the leading healthcare plans would cost and how many Americans would still be left out in the cold. Yet these projections didn’t include the savings that a public option would generate by negotiating lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and forcing private insurers to be more competitive. Projecting the future costs of universal health care without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion. Of course the costs of universal health care will be huge if the most important way of controlling them is left out of the calculation.
If you want to save universal health care, you must do several things, and soon:

  • Go to the nation. You must build public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that three out of four Americans want universal health care. But the vast majority don’t know what’s happening on the Hill, don’t know how much money the medical-industrial lobbies are spending to defeat it, and have no idea how much demagoguery they’re about to be exposed to. You must tell them. And don’t be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They’ve decided to fight you. You must fight them.
  • Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted despite their cries of “socialized medicine” because he knocked heads on the Hill. He told Congress exactly what he wanted, cajoled and threatened those who resisted, and counted noses every hour until he had the votes he needed. When you’re not on the road, you need to be twisting congressional arms and drawing a line in the sand. Be tough.
  • Forget the Republicans. Forget bipartisanship. Universal health care can pass with 51 votes. You can get 51 votes if you give up on trying to persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over. Eight year ago George W. Bush passed his huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, by wrapping it in an all-or-nothing reconciliation measure and daring Democrats to vote against it. You should do the same with health care.
  • Insist on a real public option. It’s the lynchpin of universal health care. Don’t accept Kent Conrad’s ersatz public option masquerading as a “healthcare cooperative.” Cooperatives won’t have the authority, scale, or leverage to negotiate low prices and keep private insurers honest.
  • Demand that taxes be raised on the wealthy to ensure that all Americans get affordable health care. At the rate healthcare costs are rising, not even a real public option will hold down costs enough to make health care affordable to most American families in years to come. So you’ll need to tax the wealthy. Don’t back down on your original proposal to limit their deductions. And support a cap on how much employee-provided health care can be provided tax free. (Yes, you opposed this during your campaign. But you have no choice but to reverse yourself on this.) These are the only two big pots of money.
  • Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items — financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation — pale in significance relative to universal health care. By pushing everything at once, you take the public’s mind off the biggest goal, diffuse your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you’re trying to take over the private sector.

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You have to win this.

Your obedient servant, RBR

by Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission

Comments

  1. jacksmith says

    AMERICA’S NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY!

    It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.

    STAND READY AMERICA TO SEIZE CONTROL OF YOUR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.

    We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

    And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

    Progressive democrats and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and demand that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

    Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

    In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

    Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

    God Bless You

    Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

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