Dear President Obama,

medicare-for-all-images I understand you’re thinking of dumping your “public option” because of all the demagoguery by Sarah Palin and Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich and their crowd on right-wing radio and Fox.  Fine.  Good idea, in fact.

Instead, let’s make it simple.   Please let us buy into Medicare.

It would be so easy.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this so-called “public option” that’s a whole new program from the ground up.  Medicare already exists.  It works.  Some people will like it, others won’t – just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy you’re so comfortable with.

Just pass a simple bill – it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people – that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

So it’s revenue neutral!

To make it available to people of low income, raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me - under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people.  Revenue neutral again.

Most of us will do damn near anything to get out from under the thumbs of the multi-millionaire CEOs who are running our current insurance programs.  Sign me up!

This lets you blow up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is.  Those who scorn it can go with Blue Cross.  Those who like it can buy into it.  Simplicity itself.

Of course, we’d like a few fixes, like letting Medicare negotiate drug prices and filling some of the holes Republicans and AARP and the big insurance lobbyists have drilled into Medicare so people have to buy “supplemental” insurance, but that can wait for the second round.  Let’s get this done first.

Simple stuff.  Medicare for anybody who wants it.  Private health insurance for those who don’t.  Easy message.  Even Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley can understand it.  Sarah Palin can buy into it, or ignore it.  No death panels, no granny plugs, nothing.  Just a few sentences.

Replace the “you must be disabled or 65” with “here’s what it’ll cost if you want to buy in, and here’s the sliding scale of subsidies we’ll give you if you’re poor, paid for by everybody else who’s buying in.”  (You could roll back the Reagan tax cuts and make it all free, but that’s another rant.)

We elected you because we expected you to have the courage of your convictions.  Here’s how.  Not the “single payer Medicare for all”  that many of us would prefer, but a simple, “Medicare for anybody who wants to buy in.”


Thom Hartmann


nightbird (not verified) 10 years 45 weeks ago

This is a smart idea until we have single payer, indeed.

cognitive dissident (not verified) 10 years 45 weeks ago

I would prefer a single-payer solution, but a Medicare-for-all idea would be a good second choice. The only problem I see, Mr Hartmann, is your statement that "everybody knows what Medicare is." I saw a recent study showing that 39% of Americans didn't even know that Medicare is a government program:

No matter what idea we put forth, it must be accompanied by a certain degree of education.

Julian Kernes (not verified) 10 years 45 weeks ago

Analysis of the private for-profit insurance companies' contracts would be a good idea. We could publicly expose in the media what legal clauses the various insurance company boards and panels use to deny choice of doctor, deny choice of medical facility, deny or ration medicines, deny payment of necessary tests ordered by your doctor, deny life saving procedures, etc., then we can see the details of how maintaining profits trump health care.

Steve Sisson (not verified) 10 years 44 weeks ago

Why don’t we just start the conversation with the facts? Then a reasonable solution becomes a little more obvious. Very simply put, Medicare and Medicaid are forms of wealth redistribution and corporate welfare that collectively are going to bankrupt the country at both the state and federal level. Under the current system Medicare recipients only pay a fraction of coverage costs while Medicaid recipients pay nothing. On the corporate side of the coin, the insurance companies are subsidized by not having to cover the highest risk and least profitable groups, seniors and the poor. Not to mention the waste and redundancy in the various billing and administrative systems.

So much like everything else corporate America has been able to concoct, they are able to privatize profits and public side risk. Therefore we have basically two possible solutions. Either the private insurance companies cover everyone no questions asked or the government covers everyone no questions asked. In either case, premiums would have to be set in a progressive manner. In order to subsidize the progressive premiums we need to start holding the sources of our poor health and chronic diseases financially accountable for the damage they caused.

As a country we need to bring an end to public private entities that allow profits vs risk to be disproportionally slanted to the private side, ultimately leaving the tax payer holding unsustainable amounts of risk or debt.

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