Expanding medicare to cover all Americans, but not any time soon

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 12:22:00 PM

Everyone has the right to health, including health care, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Health care is a public good, not a commodity and the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that care comes first.

Yet prior to the passage of the Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), 48 million Americans were uninsured. Health insurance has been the main mechanism for most Americans to afford health care. Without health insurance a sudden serious illness like cancer or a traumatic even like a car accident could leave the uninsured with immense medical bills, which is a common reason people file for bankruptcy and can ruin your credit history. Health insurers are required to cover annual checkups and preventive care without a co-pay, which means you are more likely to stay healthy and catch health problems early, when they're easier and less expensive to treat.

ObamaCare seems to be working. Admittedly, this is not a universal view. But as of September 18, 2014, 7.3 million are now enrolled. While the percentage of Americans without health coverage has dropped markedly from 22 percent to 15 percent, that still means 15 percent of Americans are still not covered. Among the uninsured, 44 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 33 percent are Latino. 

Despite the success of ObamaCare, we must plan ahead to provide universal health insurance. According to a Forbes article, the Obama Administration and leading Democrats have signaled that ObamaCare was not a final solution to American health care, but rather a first step toward the ultimate goal of a single-payer system administered entirely by the federal government. And Heaven forbid, according to the article, that would be a pathway to socialized medicine even though it would provide health care to all Americans. 

Perhaps, expanding Medicare to cover all Americans could give the U.S. a single-payer system. In fact, there is a bill in Congress put forth yearly by Representative John Conyers (D-MI), the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act (H.R. 676). The Act "would create a publicly financed, privately delivered healthcare system that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories."  

The bill was first introduced in 2003 and has been introduced in each Congress ever since. It got little attention until Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, which focuses on the status of health care in the only developed country without universal health care. The documentary renewed Interest in the Act. The DVD edition of the film includes a segment (Sicko Goes To Washington) promoting the bill. The bill was last introduced in 2013. gave it a 1 percent chance of passing. And that's being optimistic. 

Someday, perhaps not in my lifetime, the U.S. will finally have universal health care. Hope springs eternal.