The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, has reported that an estimated 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance since the recession began – and half of those remain uninsured.
Furthermore, according to the report, another 14,000 more people lose their coverage with each passing day as Americans continue to lose their jobs. Unemployment has increased from 4.4 percent in early 2007 to 7.6 percent now. The headlines are filled with more major employers announcing job cuts, with no signs of slowing.
Some have speculated that its a bad time to push for health care reform when the nation is already in economic turmoil. But we ask: when would reforms be needed more?
As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out on Thom Hartman radio program last week, America is the only industrialized nation that does not provide a national health care program. The pundits who claim that national health insurance would be too costly ignore the fact that on a per capita basis, America spends twice the amount on health care that those other nations do.
When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he helped push through a plan that requires the state’s residents to purchase insurance, in the same way that residents are required to purchase auto insurance programs in most states. This plan may have made more sense in 2006 when employment was readily available, but its shortcomings are obvious under current conditions: no job = no income = no insurance.
We would welcome a similar plan on the national level, provided it was the only politically viable solution. However, a single-payer “Medicare-for-all”-style national health insurance program needs to be considered. Under such a plan, there would still be a need for private health insurance as an add-on for those who could afford it. But Congress should provide base-level health insurance for all.
America can – and should – do better.