Robert Reich: Bernie Points the Nation to a Better Future—Democrats Should Get on Board

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

Senator Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Jeff Merkley, are introducing a Medicare For All bill in the Senate. It’s a model for where this nation needs to be headed.

Some background: American spending on health care per person is more than twice the average in the world’s 35 advanced economies. Yet Americans are sicker, our lives are shorter, and we have more chronic illnesses than in any other advanced nation.

That’s because medical care is so expensive for the typical American that many put off seeing a doctor until their health has seriously deteriorated.

Why is health care so much cheaper in other nations? Partly because their governments negotiate lower rates with health care providers. In France, the average cost of a magnetic resonance imaging exam is $363. In the United States, it’s $1,121. There, an appendectomy costs $4,463. Here, it’s $13,851.

The French can get lower rates because they cover everyone — which gives them lots of bargaining power.

Other nations also don’t have to pay the costs of private insurers shelling out billions of dollars a year for advertising and marketing — much of it intended to attract healthier and younger people and avoid the sicker and older.

Nor do other nations have to pay boatloads of money to the shareholders and executives of big for-profit insurance companies.

Finally, they don’t have to bear the high administrative costs of private insurers — requiring endless paperwork to keep track of every procedure by every provider.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare’s administrative costs are about 2 percent of its operating expenses. That’s less than one-sixth the administrative costs of America’s private insurers.

To make matters worse for Americans, the nation’s private health insurers are merging like mad to suck in even more money from consumers and taxpayers by reducing competition.

At the same time, their focus on attracting healthy people and avoiding sick people is creating a vicious circle. Insurers that take in sicker and costlier patients lose money, which forces them to raise premiums, co-payments and deductibles. This, in turn, makes it harder for people most in need of health insurance to afford it.

This phenomenon has even plagued health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare for all would avoid all these problems and get lower prices and better care.

Ideally, it would be financed the same way Medicare and Social Security are financed, through the payroll tax. Wealthy Americans should pay a higher payroll tax rate and contribute more than lower-income people. But everyone would come out ahead because total health care costs would be far lower, and outcomes far better.

A Gallup poll conducted in May found that a majority of Americans would support such a system. A poll by the Pew Research Center shows that such support is growing, with 60 percent of Americans now saying government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans — up from 51 percent last year.

Democrats are wise to seize the moment. The time has come for Medicare for all.

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Reposted from AlterNet

Robert Reich served as the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and now is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, is now in bookstores. His earlier book, “Supercapitalism,” is out in paperback. For copies of his articles, books, and public radio commentaries, go to www.RobertReich.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work