In 1948, President Harry Truman attempted to establish a national, single-payer health care system for the people of the U.S. A hostile Congress, frightened over the spread of Communism, ended that program before it could be instituted. Nonetheless, today’s Medicare program, a program put into place by President Lyndon Johnson as part of the very effective steps he took to reduce poverty during the 1960s, is looked upon as a good thing by fully 96% of all Americans, according to a 2005 Wall Street Journal/Harris poll. Today, Medicare is available only to people over 65 and certain low-income families. If Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and John Conyers (D-MI) have their way, Medicare could be available to everyone, regardless of income, age or pre-existing conditions. Nobody would be refused coverage. There would be no premiums to pay, no deductibles, and no co-pays. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of Medicare was hamstrung a few years ago when members of Congress voted to prevent the Federal government from negotiating drug prices and made it illegal for citizens to re-import lower priced drugs from abroad.
In addition, there are ongoing attacks on Medicare as the Administration attempts to cut funding and turn more of it over to profit-minded private corporations. “Today there are senior citizens throughout America who are forced to make cruel choices between paying the high cost of prescription drugs or buying food; between prescription drugs or clothing,” says Kucinich. “Seniors are splitting their pills to make prescriptions last, splitting their budgets with $600 monthly prescription bills, splitting their physical and their economic health.” The Kucinich-Conyers “Medicare for All” program would regulate drug prices in the same way government already regulates utility prices, based on the same rationale: health care is a right, not a privilege. Like utilities and roads, health care should belong to all citizens together and controlled by no individual or special group. Medicare For All would be financed with a payroll tax on employers of 7.7%. Kucinich points out that “Employers are already paying 8.5%.
So [Medicare for all] actually saves businesses money.” This payroll tax would raise over $920 billion, which would be added to the $1 trillion already being spent at the local, state and federal level for health care. In addition to this funding, supplementary revenue would come from increasing the income tax rate for the top five percent of income earners and placing a small fee on transactions involving stocks and bonds. “I think it is urgent that we take profit out of health care,” says Kucinich. “How many homes have this discussion every day in America? ‘Well, I don’t feel well. Ah, we don’t have the money to go to the doctor.’ Or, ‘Well, we can’t afford that surgery.’ We need to stop those kind of discussions in America. We have the money in this country.” Asbestos victims, their families and every other concerned American citizen needs to call their member of Congress daily and demand their support for H.R. 676. The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. One need simply give their zip code to the operator in order to be connected to their representative.