Robert Reich on Health Care

Former Secretary of Labor; Democratic Challenger MA Governor


ObamaCare is first step; next is Medicare for all

The passage of the health care legislation in 2010 represents only the first step toward reform. The next stage should be Medicare for all. The most efficient way to provide all Americans with high-quality health care is to allow everyone to sign up for Medicare and to subsidize the costs for middle-class and lower-income families.

It will become apparent that the 2010 reform cannot adequately contain soaring health care costs. The main reason for the soaring costs and poor results is the way our system is organized. We are the only advanced nation whose citizens largely depend on private, for-profit insurers. The result is complicated, expensive, and inequitable.

Source: Aftershock, by Robert Reich, p.137-138 , Apr 5, 2011

2009: Make a racket to get a public option

In 2009, Reich called for a countermarch on Sep. 13, telling advocates of government health care that they had "to be very loud and vocal" if they hope to save their beloved vision of socialized medicine.

"We won't get a public option, or anything close to it, unless people who feel strongly about it make a racket," Reich said. "1. Be very loud & very vocal: Write, phone, & e-mail. 2: Get others to do the same. 3: Get voters and make a hell of a fuss. 4: March on Washington."

Source: Give Us Liberty, by Rep. Dick Armey, p.107 , Aug 17, 2010

Medical savings account are rational but leave vulnerable

As originally conceived, Medicare offered every retiree a certain minimum guaranteed health insurance, financed by the contributions of all workers. Because no individual worker knew for sure how much medical attention he or she would require when reaching retirement age, the system seemed reasonably fair. But now that the wealthier and healthier have a much better idea, many would prefer individual "medical savings accounts," enabling them to get a better deal on their own rather than subsidize the chronically ill. Their preference is perfectly rational. Yet this sorting mechanism, adopted by all, would leave the sickest and poorest elderly behind in their own expensive publicly supported insurance pool, highly vulnerable to budget cuts.
Source: The Future of Success, by Robert Reich, p.207 , Feb 8, 2002

Raise cigarette taxes to make health care more affordable

Massachusetts has one of the best health-care systems in the world but too many of our people can’t afford access to it. More than 360,000 residents of the state have no health insurance. A growing number who have it can barely afford to keep it -- as premiums, co-payments, and deductibles continue to climb. We need to make health care universal and affordable by having employers shoulder more of the cost, raising the cigarette tax to help cover the unemployed and self-employed, and reducing insurers’ administrative and marketing expenses that now drain off 30 to 50 percent of all health-care spending.
Source: Campaign web site, RobertReich.org , Jan 25, 2002

Budget surplus means it’s time for universal health care

Forget a tax cut. Forget paying down the debt. Use the federal surplus for universal health insurance. Working families won’t get much out of any tax cut, and debt elimination is foolish. But working families keenly need affordable health care, now more than ever.

Democrats also shy away from any mention of universal health care because they still believe that Hillary’s ill-fated plan of 1994 was responsible for the Republican takeover of Congress later the same year. Their memories need jogging. Hillary Care sank of its own complex weight--which also made it a perfect foil for right-wing demagoguery. But it didn’t go down without a fight, and not without substantial public support at the start. In 1993, a majority of Americans listed “universal health care” as the most important unmet public need and their highest priority for government action. What better time to revive the idea of universal health care than now, since the federal budget is flush and working families need it more than ever?

Source: The American Prospect, vol.12, no.7, “The Case (once again)” , Apr 23, 2001

Universal coverage helps more than minimum wage increase

Q: Why has the administration so vehemently supported the minimum wage this year?

A: The President proposed a minimum wage increase in 1992 during the campaign, and then when health care reform was on the table, when there was a possibility that employers would be providing health care for all employees, we felt that we didn’t want to add an additional few pennies to payrolls. But the minute health care was no longer viable - and that very ambitious health care plan, as you recall, did not get enacted -- we went back and proposed, in January of 1995, an increase in the minimum wage, and we’ve been fighting for that for the last year and three quarters. Hopefully, we will get it because Americans at the bottom, twelve million of them, deserve at least a livable wage.

Source: Interview on PBS Frontline, WGBH Boston , Jul 2, 1998

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