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What’s the Solution to Rising Health Care Costs?

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Posted on May 29, 2012
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Obamacare did nothing to stop the cost of employer-based health insurance from growing at twice the rate of inflation during the Great Recession, and for that and other reasons, progressives want to get rid of it. AlterNet editor Joshua Holland has a cheaper and arguably more practical idea: Open the Medicare system to anyone who wants to buy into it. —ARK

Joshua Holland at AlterNet:

[S]ay the system does collapse under the weight of its own inequities eventually. There was a 15-year period between the last attempt to reform health care under Clinton and the passage of Obamacare. If it takes another 10-15 years to get a better set of reforms, there remains a lot of room for shifting more costs onto working families, denying more people coverage and causing more Americans to suffer needlessly. It is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater – just remember those 10 million poor people who wouldn’t be covered under Medicaid, a single-payer public health program, if Obamacare were repealed.

It is also based on the ahistoric premise that once a big new social program is enacted, that’s it – it’s locked in stone. That was hardly the case with Social Security or Medicare, both of which have been amended again and again since their original passages in 1935 and 1965, respectively.

Understanding this leads to a better approach. Instead of throwing away a decent set of insurance reforms, and a new infrastructure for (almost) universal coverage, progressives should come together around a simple amendment: open up the Medicare system to anyone – individuals and employers—who wants to buy into it. Kill the limited state-based exchanges for private insurance (or keep them), and retain the subsidies for households and small businesses that provide coverage, keep the Medicaid expansion intact, let kids stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and maintain the caps on out-of-pocket expenses. Throw away the bathwater, but hang onto the baby.

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