Healthcare is a right

House Speaker Paul Ryan is a foe of entitlement programs. AP Photo, Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

by Rob Howard
Political Columnist

Canada has health care for everybody. Our neighbors to the North spend about one-half the amount per capita that we do in the United States for healthcare - $4,608 to our $9,451. Instead of arguing about whether to repeal, replace or repair Obamacare, why aren’t we looking at a way to get costs down to the Canadian level?

I’m writing this only a few weeks after the House of Representatives was unable, in late March, to pass a severely flawed repeal and replacement of President Obama’s signature accomplishment. Even if another attempt is made, and passes,  it most certainly will not pass the Senate.

The House failing to even vote on the GOP Healthcare bill, let alone passing it, is no cause for cheering. The failure was because the Freedom Caucus was unwilling to vote for any healthcare bill. They want to go back to the bad old days when if you are too poor or too sick to be insured, it’s just tough luck for you.

Forty-nine percent of Americans are covered by health insurance through their employer. Medicare and Medicaid account for another 34 percent of Americans covered by government provided, single-payer health insurance. Other public insurance covers seven percent.

That leaves “only” nine percent not covered. That’s nearly 29 million people. Why is it impossible to figure out a way to cover those 29 million with a government single-payer plan?

Surely we can come up with a plan to cover the rest of the nation, reduce the per capita cost of healthcare and provide the same quality care that we are used to as a nation.

I’m on Medicare. The plan I have has no premium other than the around $110 a month that is my Part B premium. Sure, I have co-pays, but they are reasonably capped. I have no deductible before coverage starts. My prescription drugs, which used to cost me about $3,000 a year, now end up costing me around $400.

My son, who lives in Minnesota, is on Medicaid. He’s lucky to live in a state that expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. He recently had a medical test that would cost $1,800 for an uninsured person. His co-pay was $3.

We already know how to provide government funded healthcare. That there are still 29 million people that are not covered at all is a national shame. And that’s just fine with the Republicans. They want to replace people’s government subsidized health insurance with “access” to health insurance. There is no guarantee that you would be covered. Only that you had “access” if you can afford the policy.

Basically, they don’t believe that healthcare is a right. House Speaker Paul Ryan was almost giddy when he noted that the health plan they developed in just 17 days virtually dismantled Medicaid and sent the program back to the states.

Medicaid for the most part serves people at or below the poverty line and seniors in long-term care. In the 32 states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, it covers persons with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

In The Gayly’s region, only Arkansas expanded Medicaid, with an innovative program that buys policies for participants over the Obamacare exchange. The number of people left uninsured by states refusing to expand the program is shocking: in Kansas, 126,000; Missouri, 293,000; Oklahoma, 246,000; and Texas, 1,186,000.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of people in those four states did not receive federal subsidies for their Obamacare, because of a Supreme Court decision and the decisions of conservative Republican governors to not expand the program.

Folks, we can do better than this. Rather than putting millions back in the uninsured category, we should be able to come up with a plan that reduces healthcare costs and covers everybody.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – April 28, 2017 @ 12:05 p.m.