Why do I call Anthony Weiner, Democratic Representative from New York, my new hero? Weiner is the first politician (including Barack Obama) that I have heard make a bold and unambiguous stand on health care reform. He says very simply to extend Medicare to everyone. His interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is a brisk cool breeze blowing through the humid murky summer discussions of this topic. The host, Joe Scarborough is a former Republican Representative from Florida and the lone conservative voice on the otherwise ultra-liberal cable channel.
This video is broken into two parts and is well worth the watch.
Notice when Weiner asks Scarborough what value private insurance brings to the table, Scarborough is speechless.
Notice Weiner’s salient points:
- What value does the health insurance industry add to the health care “transaction”?
- When has the health insurance industry ever operated at 4% overhead?
- Why does the Medicare “CEO” make $250,000.00 compared to the several million made by a private insurance CEO?
- What would a 50 year old man who was just laid off say if offered Medicare?
How does Scarborough react? He basically says that Weiner’s solution is a government takeover of health care and an interference with free market capitalism.
Baloney! We are confusing financial mechanisms with delivery mechanisms. Health care is about doctors and hospitals providing the best care possible to their patients. No one is suggesting that the government can do that better than private health care providers. No one is suggesting a government takeover of health care. Health care is something that can be shopped for and the free market system is the best way to find the best doctors.
On the other hand, reimbursing people for their health care expenses is not a commodity. It is what should be a simple financial transaction based on using pooled money from member contributed premiums to lower out of pocket cost to patients. There is no skill involved in this financial transaction. There is no special trick that makes one health care insurance provider any better at this than any other. There is no value add. It is a financial transaction that should be executed with the lowest possible overhead, and with no discrimination against the premium payers. Much of the current debate revolves around preserving the health insurance industry. Why? As Weiner says, what value do they add to the transaction?
If you were 50 years old and just laid off and you therefore lost your employer based private health care, wouldn’t you very likely think at some point, “man, I sure wish I could get Medicare.”? Why is it that the very next thing that everyone says after they decry “socialized medicine” is “don’t touch my Medicare”?
Do we expand Medicare in one fell swoop? Of course not. Too much too soon. We phase it in by age. In 2010 extend Medicare to 55 and older. In 2011, 45 and older. In 2012, 35 and older and so on.
The argument that Medicare is going broke is a diversion. Costs are rising in private insurance as well. The difference is private insurance can always raise rates on a captive customer base. The answer to the argument is you fix Medicare and extend it. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Republicans will work to defeat any change in the status quo so why settle on half measures? Let’s enact legislation that is at once simple and bold. Obama needs to take a page from my new hero.