EDITORIAL: Healthcare is a key general elections issue

Medicare for All

Several issues critical to voters are being addressed and promoted by the several candidates seeking office in the November 6 general elections. But, as the election approaches, universal healthcare has emerged, including here in Florida, as a key issue to voters and candidates, especially Democratic Party candidates.

Democrats ads focus on healthcare

In recent weeks, over half of the ads of Democrats running for governors, US Senate and House of Representatives, have focused on universal healthcare. The preponderance of healthcare ads coincides with a “Washington Post” report that 75 percent of congressional districts across the country had the term ‘healthcare’ as the top Google search this year. The search was higher in districts currently held by Democrats, and in 44 percent of Republican districts considered likely to flip to the Democrats.

Concern over coverage for pre-existing conditions

Voters interest in healthcare, and the response by candidates, is largely fueled by attempts made over the past two years to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, signed by President Barack Obama. Although Obamacare remains, its impact on national healthcare has weakened. Particularly concerning to voters is the threat to remove one of the pillars of the ACA – insurance coverage for preexisting medical conditions. Recently, Republicans headed by President Trump have tried to assure Americans in op-eds and ads that even if Obamacare is repealed coverage for preexisting conditions will remain. But, meanwhile, there’s  a pending Republican filed lawsuit in Texas to erase coverage for preexisting conditions.

Most Americans are concerned about their healthcare as costs continue to rise. Clearly there’s need for something to be done. Several Democratic candidates agree this “something” is Medicare for All, a solution initiated by Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Medicare for All

The Medicare for All proposal is one supported by President Obama, although the initiative would create major changes to Obamacare.

Entering the 2018 general election campaign in September, Obama criticized Republicans for attempting to remove Obamacare, while offering his support for “Medicare for All.”  He stressed that Americans were buoyed by the need for universal health coverage, and commended Democrats for running not only “on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on new ideas, Medicare for all.”

In primary elections held this year in several states candidates who supported Medicare for All won their races against seemingly unsurmountable odds These candidates included Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for Florida governor. Increasingly, national polls are showing support by voters for a universal healthcare policy similar to the popular national healthcare program for seniors over age-65.

During the raucous debate over the ACA, several experts suggested Obama should consider expanding Medicare which offers comprehensive healthcare to seniors for affordable rates, as the national universal healthcare plan. However, these suggestions went unheeded.

Govt. administered plan for Americans

The Medicare for All plan proposed by Senator Sanders, supported by several Democrat candidates is a government administered plan for all Americans.

The proposed plan requires consumers to pay a fixed premium, and unlike current private insurance policies would not require them to pay deductibles, and co-payments, and would cover preexisting conditions.

To meet operational costs, under Medicare for All employers and individuals would pay a monthly fee. It is also proposed that federal funds spent on Obamacare insurance premiums and other federal healthcare programs would be redirected to Medicare for All.

It’s also proposed under Medicare for All:

Doctors and healthcare providers would receive reimbursement from the government at a rate set by the Department of Health and Human Services. These rates would be set at the current Medicare levels.

The current Medicare benefits would be expanded to include coverage for vision and dentalcare.

The age of eligibility for coverage would gradually fall every year for four years from the existing 65-years age for Medicare to include all Americans. Importantly, newborn infants would be automatically enrolled in the program.

Some Medicare for All proponents want a public option where individuals will have the ability to purchase and keep private insurance plans.

Strong public support

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicated 85 percent of Democrats, 52 percent  of Republicans, and 70 percent of Americans, overall, favor Medicare for All. A March 2018  Kaiser Family Foundation poll found some 60 percent of Americans favor a national health plan administered by the government.

But despite this popularity Medicare for All is sternly opposed by Republicans. The opposition includes the cost of the program, likelihood of low reimbursement rates for providers, and possibility of longer wait times for care.

Clearly, voters want universal healthcare, but such a policy can only be implemented if voters elect candidates that support it. There’s a real possibility this could become national policy, but only if there’s unusually heavy voter turnout in this crucial general election.

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