Economists Demand Universal Health Care

It’s time for universal healthcare in America.

More than 100 economic professors from across our country have signed on to a letter, calling for Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and that state’s legislature to enact universal healthcare in the Green Mountain State.

Vermont has had plans to implement a universal healthcare system in that state for some time now, but Governor Shumlin put those plans on hold late last year, after concerns came up over how the system would be paid for.

In the letter to Shumlin, the professors argue that healthcare should be provided as a public good, and that financing it actually helps to save money in the long run. The professors write in part that, “Evidence from around the world demonstrates that publicly financed health care systems result in improved health outcomes, lower costs and greater equity. Public financing is not a matter of raising new money, but of distributing existing payments more equitably and efficiently.”

While the professors make a great point, the fact is that Vermont gave universal healthcare a great shot. That state tried hard to make it work, and did its best to bring healthcare to all Vermonters. But Vermont is a very small state with a population of just over 626,000 people. And, in a state that small, implementing universal healthcare is a very hard thing to do.

For universal healthcare to really be successful, it needs to be done at a national level. Fortunately, America already has the framework in place to make universal healthcare a success. That framework is called Medicare.

A lot of people forget this but, back in July of 1965 when Medicare was established by Congress, it was established with the idea that one day it would be slightly changed to become THE national single-payer health insurance program for America. Well, the day to make those changes is now.

Currently, Medicare is made up of four parts: Part A which covers hospital stays, Part B with pays for medical services, Part C which pays for private insurance coverage, and Part D with pays for prescription drugs. Now, it’s time to create “Medicare Part E”, which would cover every single American. Just let any citizen in the U.S. buy into Medicare.

Best of all, creating “Medicare Part E” would be really easy. It wouldn’t be some complicated process that requires Congress and the government to re-invent the wheel.

All Congress would have to do is pass a simple bill that says any American can buy into Medicare at a rate predetermined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. In would also be pretty easy to get Americans enrolled in universal healthcare and “Medicare Part E”.

Basically, as soon as legislation is passed approving “Medicare Part E”, the government would begin lowering the eligibility age for Medicare. Each year, the eligibility age would drop by a decade, letting around 30 million new Americans into the program. This process would be repeated each year, and within 7 years, all Americans are covered by Medicare.

Of course, like with any idea, “Medicare Part E” has its opponents. There are people who just won’t want to be part of it. Luckily for them, they would still be able to buy private health insurance, and hand over their hard-earned money to billionaire insurance executives. That’s because universal healthcare doesn’t mean government-only or even government-run healthcare.

In fact, many of the 32 developed countries in the world that have a universal healthcare plan in place continue to have both public and private insurance and medical providers. And, in those countries where universal healthcare is in place, it’s working wonders.

Take Australia for example. In Australia, universal healthcare is guaranteed to all Australians, and the program is working really well. In 2003, Australia’s death rate from conditions that can be medically treated was a whopping 50% less than in America.

The framework for universal healthcare in America is already in place and the resources for it to be successful are readily available. We just have to make it happen. The United States is the ONLY free-market country in the world without a universal healthcare system.

Countries with universal nonprofit healthcare don’t have millions of people struggling to afford healthcare. And they don’t have millions of people skipping out on prescriptions because they cost too much money. From Switzerland to Australia, and Norway to the U.K., healthcare is considered a basic human right. No one questions the notion that everyone, no matter who they are, is entitled to lifesaving and affordable healthcare.

When it comes to improving healthcare in America, Obamacare has been a great start, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.It’s time to enact “Medicare Part E” and ensure that all Americans have access to lifesaving and affordable healthcare.


DrRichard 9 years 16 weeks ago

I wouldn't call Obamacare a "great" start since it leaves far too much power with the insurance companies, but it is a start. Sadly, when dealing with a majority party that has lost its mind, logic is the last thing it will listen to.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 16 weeks ago

Gov. Shumlin is concerned about implemting universal healthcare in his state because he has seen how much it is going to cost. The sad truth is when you have to include the less fortunate who can't contribute there fair share, the price of healthcare skyrockets. Ask the Canadians or Australians. It has to be done though.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 16 weeks ago

The most recent poll I can find indicates only 36% oppose a "universal form of Medicare"....worded that way. And I'm sure the majority of that 36% sit brain dead and bug-eyed in front of Foxionaire News most of the day. The vast majority already want what the economists demand. Representative government anyone?...of course not, it got purchased by the Kochs after the five right- wing extremists on the Supreme Court decided they had the right to put a price on it.

Now those same scoundrels may rule against the new Health Insurance Reform Act! Yes, sadly it's still insurance for profit, a baby step forward, but a baby step that's considered too big for the endless greed of big money.'s picture 9 years 16 weeks ago

Thom - Saskatchewan introduced universal healthcare to North America with a population smaller than that of Vermont. So what's the problem? However, universal healthcare should go hand-in-hand with universal access to equal education . . also in this respect could Saskatchewan serve as a model . . .

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 16 weeks ago

Here is a great speech by Michael Sheen, a British actor, about how passionate he and the crowd listening is about saving and preserving the United Kingdoms Universal Health Care System called, National Health Service or NHS, from right wing British politicians who are hell bent on destroying it. If you have any doubt that National Health Care is a good idea and that the people that have it love it with a passion, watch this speech and decide for yourself.

The USA isn't the only nation under siege from right wing Corporatist radical ideology.

RFord's picture
RFord 9 years 16 weeks ago

People talk about how bad universal healthcare is in the UK, not the people who live in the UK or people from the UK. the're actually very pleased with their healthcare system. It's in the US that people in politics, the healthcare business, and conservatives repeating what other conservatives have said that tell us how bad the UK's healthcare system is. Remember that big show the UK put on about their healthcare system at the London olympics? They are very very proud of their national healthcare . So, why don't we have a national healthcare system that everyone in the country is happy with and proud of? It's because of money and politics. We are told that we couldn't afford it and that it's a bad system. We are told this by those who benefit the most from the system we have, you know the system where some people have better healthcare than others, the system that causes some people who need to go to the doctor to not go because they don't have the money to pay their deuctable or co-pay. Healthcare for all would be better and less expensive for all if you take all of the healthcare industry corporate and investor profits out of the equasion. If we, the people of the USA, would stick together, we could make it happen. All we have to do is elect progressives to office, republicans, democrats, or others.

chicagotim's picture
chicagotim 9 years 16 weeks ago

Vermont is one of the most Liberal states, both socially and in terms of Big Government. They did a series of cost estimates and determined that the cost of making sure everyone had full, nearly unlimited access to healthcare was considerably more than even their Deep Dark Blue citizens were willing to fork over.

It's a classic Liberal conundrum. At some point you simply can't tax the 1% any more, and have to dip well in to the middle class to pay the freight.

I completely understand the desire to get everyone healthcare, and by law we are all guaranteed services even if we don't have the ability to pay. That said, I just don't see how we can rationally pay for health insurance for the millions of "working poor". Most of whom, mind you, have cell phones and cable tv somehow...

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 16 weeks ago

The descriptions of Medicare parts B and D have "with pays" instead of "which pays".

It's nice to have the parts laid out like that. I don't remember Thom ever doing that on the air, but I have missed a lot of shows.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 9 years 16 weeks ago

Cite sources, chicagotim, it's too easy to bullshit that way. It's an old Fox News trick, "Some people say ... ".

Or, read the article you're responding to and you'll see your comment is not relevant - if not largely false..

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 16 weeks ago

Reply to post #7: chicagotim says “At some point you simply can't tax the 1% any more, and have to dip well in to the middle class to pay the freight.” Are you serious?! Do you believe the 1% are taxed too much - Really?!

Talk about conundrums… I never hear you conservatives say something like “I don't see how we can rationally pay for something like health insurance when health insurance companies contribute nothing to health care”…. or how about “I don't see how we can rationally pay twice as much for healthcare per capita as any other country with a national healthcare system that covers everyone, when our system can’t even provide adequate healthcare for all Americans”. Or how about “I don't see how we can rationally pay trillions of dollars on wars against countries that were never a threat to us” or “I don't see how we can rationally pay all this tax money into oil subsidies when fossil fuel companies are making record profits”. You guys are so full of it.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 16 weeks ago

But Thom, back in 2009 Obama said “No we can’t”. He ignored Medicare while insisting that universal healthcare would necessitate us starting all over from scratch. It was one of the most pathetic speeches I’ve heard Obama make in the six years of his presidency.

mcowley01's picture
mcowley01 9 years 16 weeks ago

RFord, I live in the UK (have also lived in the USA) and everything you say is absolutely true.

I used to be puzzeled as to why Americans wouldn't want a proper health care system - then it dawned on me: Insurance companies, neocons and Fox 'News' (that channel is an enemy of democracy).

Best of luck to you in the USA, hope you eventually get your proper level of health care.

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 9 years 16 weeks ago

Kend: In Ohio, for the past 34 years my responsible husband and I have had health insurance; some years we needed it, sometimes not, even with 2 children. The first $1000 of our premiums go to support/pay for those who cannot or refuse to get insurance, so we are already paying for others.

I think everyone should have insurance and contribute to the system. We pay so that Herbert can get his cancer treatment this year, while he pays for mine the next and so on. The value of insurance is that the insurance company negotiates fees and charges. For example, a visit to my oncologist (whose clinic was recently bought by the Cleveland Clinic) costs much more than I, or most people, can afford. I pay a co-pay and the insurance pays a reasonable contracted fee (usually half) not the $299.00 the clinic is charging for a 5 minute follow-up visit.

While I don't mind helping those who cannot afford insurance, I do object to those who refuse to be covered because they want to spend their money on something else and let the rest of us pay. When they have a medical need and skip out on the bills, the rest of us have to pay with higher health costs. Those selfish individuals should not go to the hospital or the doctor unless they pay up-front and their burden should not be pressed upon the rest of us.

The federal government has committed to help with honoring the human right to healthcare. The only ones opposed are the wealthy, who don't pay their fair share in taxes anyway and should have no say in OUR healthcare. All their whinning and denying basic human rights to others is that they come off as selfish bastards that will deserve the rest of us coming after them. Their disreguard for the rest of us will be their undoing.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 9 years 16 weeks ago

We missed a golden opportunity to expand Medicare forty five years ago when Nixon stepped in and started pushing HMOs which sparked the private insurance companies to start purchasing hospitals all over the country in a plan to corner the healthcare market. Pushback by the public forced legislators to adopt a tiered healthcare plan that allowed people with the ability to pay to select a plan that allowed them to use the private physician of their choice. Hardly a universal system but as much as could be expected with Washington firmly in the pockets of private insurance.

Medicare has only been around for fifty years and the program was implemented in a relatively brief period of time without the multi million Dollar expenditures to develop an automated Website on the Internet. The funding for the program was based on the original Social Security funding system where workers would pay a small tax in each paycheck that would subsidize the operation of the system for existing retirees. This existing system would not be able to fund a comprehensive healthcare system for all citizens and I doubt bringing in additional members in specific age groups over decades would be acceptable to most citizens and it would give the political opposition an enormous opportunity to scuttle the system in relatively short order. Given the burdenous monthly costs of private healthcare insurance born by working families today, with 6 to 8% of that cost going to pay for private insurance companies marketing expenses, I would think that Medicare could easily provide a much more cost effective alternative through an adjusted Medicare tax in each pay check.

A recent addition to available healthcare options can be seen in the growing number of Emergency care centers that are often owned and operated by privately financed groups of medical doctors. Five years ago we had one that was within a mile of our house, now their are four. These clinics have gone a long way toward reducing the throngs of patients flooding hospital emergency rooms who too often have minor medical issues not requiring hospitalization. Those who have serious life threatening conditions can be quickly stabilized by a medical professional before being transported to a distant hospital, increasing the odds of a positive life saving outcome ! These local emergency centers could play a vital role in reducing the costs required to implement a future universal system !

RoseM481's picture
RoseM481 9 years 16 weeks ago

Universal Health Care I totally agree with, it stops a lot of misery. Private health care has grown in those countries too. My friends say it's because waiting times for consultations and follow up tests, etc is basically nil whereas on the universal health care system there is a waiting time (except in emergencies and urgent cases, of course) which can be of several weeks. If you don't subscribe to the 'I want it yesterday' attitude, it works very well.

oneworldatpeace's picture
oneworldatpeace 9 years 16 weeks ago

Hey Thom! Considering that most of my Wifes' clients in her Family Homeless Shelter ( for conservatives; these are couples, or singles that have children and are homeless) arrive in her shelter after SOMEBODY IN THE FAMILY GOT SICK! If it's the Parent a lot of times they just gut it out and keep working unless they are incapacitated, but in MINIMUM WAGE AND BENEFIT AMERICA you miss a few days and you are usually fired whether your kids, or you need medical help. Two weeks later you can't make the rent and BOOM! welcome to the slide to the bottom with only few handgrabs that slow the slide but all end in the street. Because now the RENTS ARE TOO HIGH and cheap units unavailible so they're stuck.

I think we should compile all these factors and use your plan for Social Security in removing the Income Cap on ALL INCOME to drive the remedies for our social needs.

If we moved the budget to classify Maternal, Paternal, sick Days and RETIREMENT INTO A SEPARATE BUDGET funded by expressly earmarked funds paid for by Social Security we would have a single line item that could be compared with the other less desirable items, like War, and see what people really want!

Luigi's picture
Luigi 9 years 16 weeks ago

This is a wonderful discussion but a totally futile one. Universal health care will never happen in this country. In fact there is a better chance that medicare as we know it will be dismantled. Republicans have a death grip on the gerrymandered House, control the Senate and more than 30 state houses. All they need is the White House and it is over for medicare, social security and any other government program that seeks to help those that are not as fortunate as the oligarchs that they serve.

What we should be talking about is how do we get the voting public in this country to wake up and mobilize against these bastards and get them out of office and out of our lives. Any other discussion whether it is about medicare, poverty, education or any other of the many problems facing our country is just that a discussion.

Think about it, here in so-called "Blue State New Jersey" we elected Chris Christie twice and if he could run again he would win again despite the fact that he has governed this state into total disarray, Scott Walker wins two elections and survives a recall and now he is out there comparing unions to ISIS terrorists, James Inhofe, who seems to have a permanent senate seat from Oklahoma, brings a snowball to the senate floor to disprove there is climate change!

Medicare for all - I hardly think so.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 16 weeks ago

Reply to #13: Elioflight, I understand where you are coming from, pointing out how those refusing to pay into this health "insurance" racket are adding to the burden of those like yourself who have coverage. But it still is extortion. I’m aware that most people aren’t in the habit of calling it that, but that is exactly what it is: EXTORTION. And your post exemplifies how our current system pits people against one another; i.e. “My premium is higher because you refuse to buy insurance.” If my husband & I weren’t fortunate enough to live in a state where medicaid was available, I would be one of those people you are complaining about. The cost of for-profit health “insurance” is so high, it would cripple us financially. We would not have money for anything but healthcare and maybe a few necessities, but undoubtedly (given our limited income), some necessities would have to be compromised or sacrificed for health "insurance". I refuse to put myself in that position. If you think I’m an asshole, a freeloader or whatever, then so be it. But no matter what anyone says, I know where the blame lies: with the goddam extortionists, and the politicians they’ve got in their pockets. That's where we need to direct our attention, instead of blaming people who can't afford insurance.

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 9 years 16 weeks ago

Alice: I think you are nothing of the kind; you'd pay if you were able. I'm sorry if I came off attacking you--Kend was my target. There are those who CAN PAY but think they'll never get sick or wish to pass that cost onto others; they work with my husband; they (conservatives, for the most part) can afford to get and pay for insurance, but they think other people should be responsible for them.

Yes, insurance is a racket--I usually have to fight for the benefits I'm paying for. I'm all for universal; it's the humane choice. I think I do say that I'm glad the government is helping those people pay; I have no problem with that.

I am the guardian of my elderly mentally disabled aunt and uncle; they depend on the state of Ohio to take care of their medical needs; their bills come to my home. My don't-rain-on-my-parade mother, their sister, has left them in my hands, so I am glad for the help they get, believe me. I could not afford to pay their bills and do not begrudge anyone the RIGHT to healthcare or the help to pay for it.

Alice: Have a great day! There are more people pulling for and fighting for you than you know. Here's hoping we'll get there--if not for us, then our children.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 16 weeks ago

Luigi -- I think you assume we have to do more than we actually have to do. You say we have to wake up the voting public and mobilize against the bastards (AKA republicans). I think all we have to do is wake up the voting public and get them to the polls. We may need to point out to the voting public how different the 2 parties are, but maybe they already know that.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 9 years 16 weeks ago

You know, they do put people against each other, though. There was a good story in The Nation about how universal single payer is just better 'cause it doesn't do that. I gotta think it's an intentional strategy of the right making welfare a means tested charity rather than correction of injustice.

There's this thing called "middle class resentment" when middle class people, who are barely making it as middle class can't afford healthcare or have to choose between paying the doctor or paying another bill, look at Medicaid programs that are free for poor folks and wanna cut 'em. With universal, single payer that doesn't happen, rich and poor are entitled to the basic human right of healthcare so everyone defends it, cares about it, tries to perfect it and won't let you take it away. Means testing is a very divisive and abusive practice.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 16 weeks ago

Reply to #19: Thank you Elioflight. I’ve always known you to be a strong, righteous sister with a good heart, and I knew you weren’t attacking me personally. I just hate this system of healthcare apartheid with such a bloody passion! It is a ruthless, cruel, predatory racket and the ACA (aka “Obamacare”) such a weak remedy for all that abuse. I hate how it preys on people when they're most vulnerable. What it’s doing to people’s lives and to this country is the stuff nightmares are made of. Whenever the subject comes up, it takes very little to set me off. Thanks for your gracious response, Elio, and for understanding where I was coming from in that post.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 16 weeks ago

P.S. Thank you too, Mark. Excellent points.

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