Focus on Health Care

In a recent post I shared my hope for how we can come out of this crisis stronger. One of the three areas I identified was health care, I want to focus on that in this post.

I have supported universal health care for over 30 years. When my wife and I were first married we were both in college, working a couple part-time jobs each and uninsured. At the same time, I watched my dad continue working just for the insurance when he was otherwise ready, and prepared, for retirement. Over the years, I have listened to many people as they dreamed of quitting a job to start their own business or go back to school, only to be hit with the realization that they could not afford to risk losing health insurance for themselves or their family.

This current crisis is showing how outdated our system of having insurance tied to our jobs is. Just as people need their insurance the most, many are getting laid off and losing coverage. In addition, many workers today are in the “gig” economy or have several part-time jobs, none of which provide insurance.

I have always thought, and assumed, that universal coverage should be organized at the federal level. I am starting to rethink that. The federal government, going back to President Truman, has at various points talked about and sometimes attempted to implement universal coverage; and we still don’t have it. In fact, currently the Trump administration is backing a lawsuit that has made it to the Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) unconstitutional.

I think it is time for Michigan to look at our options of bringing universal coverage to our residents. Many States have brought forth proposals, including Michigan, but so far none have passed. There are many challenges to overcome, including the major hurdle of federal laws which preempt States efforts. This does not mean we should not pursue universal coverage - Michigan has experience in administering federal medicare plans as well as providing health insurance to State employees and retirees, we could use that experience to design a plan that works for everyone.

A Statewide plan would benefit from the efficiencies of scale and provide less confusion on billing and coverage to both patients and providers. While taxes would have to increase to offset the costs, it is likely that most workers and businesses would see net savings compared to their current insurance premiums.

If Michigan were on the forefront of universal coverage we could attract more people, and business, to the State. Imagine the relief of individuals and businesses not having to worry about losing coverage or figuring out the ever changing details and costs of employer-offered plans. Imagine if we had come into this pandemic with everyone insured.

Maybe it is time to stop waiting on the Federal government and start looking out for ourselves. There are certainly many hurdles to overcome, and I do not pretend to have all the answers, or even understand all the hurdles. I am willing, however, to start the conversation and work on getting over the hurdles.

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