Can healthcare as a human right and insurance companies co-exist?

Until now I’ve never found election debates sufficiently entertaining to actually watch them. They always seemed to bring out the worst in what otherwise might be perfectly decent human beings. But I must say I’m finding these Democratic debates compelling (if too long by half). A lot has to do with the political moment: Which of this smart, attractive, and wonderfully diverse lineup will be chosen to slay the dragon?

But I continue to be frustrated by the muddled state of the healthcare debate. I’m tired of hearing all the quibbling about “taking away” supposedly beloved company-sponsored healthcare from people who in polls are quite clear that while they may be happy to have some healthcare, don’t like the US healthcare system at all.

Or the endless repetition of the scary figure of 34 trillion dollars, as in “OK, you Medicare for All fans, how are you going to pay for it?” When the whole point is that we can’t afford the healthcare system we have now, in which most people continue to pay ridiculously high premiums and still have ridiculously high deductibles, 28 million of us are uninsured (up 2 million from year before because of GOP attempts to weaken Obamacare), and the whole system costs, by most estimates I’ve read, at least twice what any other country we compare ourselves with are paying.

If it’s 34 trillion, that incomprehensibly large figure, then we will be paying twice (or more) than that in premiums if we continue with the system we have.

Yes, of course, as with any other program we the people decide we want, taxes will go up, and not just for billionaires (who, we are told, will manage not to pay them anyway). But families will save thousands in premiums we wont be paying. Or so, as I understand it, goes the logic of single-payer: remove the for-profit insurance companies from the equation and enjoy, society-wide and individually, a substantial savings. That is, if we follow the same laws of economic nature governing other countries like Canada.

Warren does do herself a disfavor by insisting on her mantra that as President she wouldn’t sign a healthcare bill that costs the non-wealthy more money. I think that’s her way of saying that the premium-tax tradeoff will be favorable to the non-rich while avoiding having to admit that taxes will go up to support the program. But it’s confusing and seems disingenuous. Bernie made the clearest statement of the logic of Medicare for All, but it got lost in the shuffle. Only Bernie clearly says: yes, it’s expensive, until you look at what the country pays for healthcare now with insurance company middle men running the show.

And because that the simple logic of the premium-tax tradeoff has failed to take hold, David Brooks can, the morning after the debate, hammer away on the old, misleading refrain: “[Warren’s]10-year, $34 trillion health care plan isn’t paid for.” Even a progressive-sounding New York Times op-ed titled “ We don’t need to raise taxes to have ‘Medicare for all” (because it can be paid for with big cuts in the defense budget, a good idea all on its own), totally misses the point in implying that if it had to be paid for by taxes it wouldn’t work.

The litmus test on healthcare is a candidate’s answer to the question: Is healthcare a human right ( like other forms of basic security such as police, roads, clean water)? And not just a right for aging humans?

And if the answer is “yes, healthcare is a human right,” which I believe it has been for all or most of the Democratic candidates, and you, Pete, Amy, Joe, want to keep insurance companies in the game, how do you get them to provide care as a human right and still make their huge profits?

If Medicare for All is not the only program consistent with healthcare as a human right, please explain.

Wealth tax: How else correct the plunge to oligarchy?

A recent New York Times story on Senator Warren’s proposed tax on the very wealthy notes that polls show it to be a popular idea among those it is intended to benefit. But some economists worry that a 2% tax on family wealth over $50 million(or 3% over $100 million) will remove incentives for growth. […]

Slavery reparations: because bygones are not bygone

On a recent cross country road trip my wife and I stayed overnight in Memphis. Memphis was not our destination. We had booked an Airbnb there because it was conveniently located about halfway between Oklahoma City and Asheville. I didn’t have slavery on my mind. It had escaped my attention that reparations had once again […]

Local opposition to state bike path plan being ignored by leaders

Wellfleet citizens have been in a struggle with the state over a controversial plan to extend the existing Rail Trail to an already congested stretch of Route 6. The plan has been widely opposed by local citizens as dangerous as well as inconsistent with the idea of a scenic and peaceful bike trail. So it […]

Non-residents’ push for the vote: what’s at stake

Outer Cape non-resident taxpayers have clamored ever more loudly in recent years to be able to vote in the town where they own a house, as well as where they live. A recent My View by the president of the Provincetown Part-time Resident Taxpayers Association spells out the argument: to deny secondhome owners a say […]

Unfriendly discourse is not our problem

“Divisiveness” has become a major, much lamented theme in the time of Trump. The recent series in this paper decrying the lack of civil discourse encouraged the idea incivility is an issue itself, a style that can be separated from the substance of such problems as racism, immigration, mass murder, etc. That incivility is itself […]

Sharks vs. humans at play: Which side are we on?

I went swimming over the weekend at the same ocean beach in Wellfleet where the young man was killed by a shark last September. I had been thinking that, given the shark situation, I could eliminate ocean swimming from my recreation menu. But it was day two of the heat wave and the lowtide 2-4 […]

Confusion and clarity in the healthcare debate

Surely we can do better than the confusion which characterizes the 2020 election debate over whether or not such basics as healthcare or education should be treated as a human right. Should we have our government (of, by, and for the people, right?) run our healthcare system as it runs other key parts of our […]

Dem debate: swamped with virtuous candidates

There were so many qualified-seeming candidates on the two nights of the Democratic debate it was actually a relief to find one or two I didn’t find especially prepossessing. It was, to begin, a veritable orgy of diversity. Women candidates, “black” candidates,” brown” candidates, a candidate both female, black and the other sort of Indian.. […]

Local life marinating in tourism contradictions

A dramatic feature of life in a tourist destination is the shifting of gears on Memorial Day. Secondhome owners and other visitors sweep into town for a hit of their favorite vacation spot, light us up for a few days, and then retreat until the real season (by which time it is hoped we will […]