Guest Opinion: Legislators should have studied universal health care
May 9, 2018
In April, key Democratic state legislators blocked the Health Care Cost Analysis Act from joining the more than 700 active bills this legislative session.
House Speaker Crisanta Duran, in a form response also signed by the bill's sponsor, wrote to concerned citizens that they'd decided to only allow the introduction of a different health care study bill that had more bipartisan support. The study bill allowed does not include a single payer health reform option.
I believe this is a grave tactical error and that they have missed an important opportunity. Here's why.
In all the multitude of proposed solutions for the U.S.'s devastating, ongoing, unique health care crisis, there is one division. The vast majority of proposals involve keeping the unnecessary and expensive middle layer of private insurance companies. And very few proposals do not. Those few proposals have been systematically censored from any public debate. In fact, the public is being kept in the dark about how much health care money this layer wastes.
The rest of the world is baffled why the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world will not guarantee even minimal medical care to all its residents, and why democratically representative legislators are being held hostage to a small group of large corporations that are continuing to damage Americans and the rest of the U.S. economy — corporations that are among the most loathed institutions in U.S. history.
Any strategy that negotiates away even looking at a future without private insurance companies, that forfeits planning for universal health care, is a waste of time that we cannot afford, because innocent American lives are being lost needlessly in the meantime. (I can give you several heartbreaking accounts from my own family and friends, but almost anyone can do that these days.)
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By removing the Health Care Cost Analysis bill from consideration, these legislators have handed over to the opposition the power to set the terms of the debate and the limits of the debate — that's to an opposition largely funded by insurance companies and their affiliates.
This is exactly the strategy that has been followed for more than 20 years: Placating bullies on the far-right in order to claim bipartisan support in hopes of incremental progress that always disappoints and always increases the profit margin of the corporations involved.
And people are still dying. And medical bankruptcies are rampant. And exhausted cancer patients routinely use GoFundMe to try to obtain some of the meds they so desperately need.
If they had advocated for this bill, it would have made it clear who does and does not support transparency in health care costs, and that in itself would have been a tremendous step forward. Whether it passed or not, the party in nominal control of the state government would have gained credibility and loyalty, and the corporate-controlled opposition would no longer have a monopoly on the discussion.
And, perhaps most importantly, the unofficial bipartisan censorship would have been unlocked.
Colorado is an ideal state to try an improved Medicare-for-all-type program. And legislators who support this would be enthusiastically championed. It's exactly because of these kinds of issues that Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in Colorado, 2 to 1.
If state legislators are still hesitant to vocally support universal health care, I would strongly recommend that they contact officials in Canadian provinces, Australia, EU countries (many have English as one of their languages), and so on. Those officials can give our Colorado leaders the histories of their own successful work towards universal health care and can give advice in how to fight corporate corruption.
And I believe we, the people, can learn from those in these other countries, too. Let us invite our overseas friends into the discussions and invite our hesitant officials to talk to them, as well as us.
It's time to heal the U.S. health care system into a fully functioning whole. It's time to join the right side of history.
Barbara Goodrich, Ph.D., D.V.M., represents the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, based in Boulder.