ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Single payer advocacy in the great state of Maine
Dr. Philip Caper in Truthout (picked up from the Bangor Daily News, nice!):
Second, the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act has shined a spotlight on how unnecessarily complicated our fragmented health insurance system is, and how great is the need to fundamentally reform it. That in turn has reignited public interest in further reform, and strengthened a growing popular movement.
For example, this past October well over 100 people turned out in Portland on the second night of the World Series to view a movie and discussion about health-care reform. Here in the heart of Red Sox Nation, that is notable.
Last week, Maine’s legislature held a hearing on LD 1345, a bill that would create a path to a state-level single-payer system for Maine. Such proposals have been around for years, met with tepid interest from the public and vigorous opposition from insurance companies and other corporate interests.
This time it was different. The hearing room was packed to overflowing with enthusiastic supporters. Forty-five members of the public took the day off and traveled to Augusta to testify in person. Another 15 to 20 submitted written testimony. Of those, 57 testified in favor of the proposed legislation, two against and one undecided. Only representatives of the health insurance industry openly opposed the bill.
Those are very good numbers for Maine. Maine is a big state, and it's a long drive to the state capital, Augusta.
The media frenzy surrounding the troubled rollout of the ACA since early October has provided commentators (including myself) many opportunities to point out publicly that although the functionality of the ACA’s websites fell short in many states, the underlying problem is not bad software. It is the expensive complexity baked into the law. That level of complexity can only be justified by politics — the perceived need to preserve a central role for private health insurance companies, despite their widespread unpopularity, as a means of financing health care.
In which Lambert apologizes for being prematurely correct....
A simple expansion of Medicare, at the federal or state level, would eliminate 95 percent of that complexity, and with it much of the public confusion and distrust surrounding health-care reform. Largely because of its requirement that people, including large employers, buy private health insurance, the ACA has forced large numbers of people who, to date, have had little reason to care about health-care reform to pay attention.
The evidence shows we could cover everybody in Maine by replacing insurance premiums and most out-of-pocket expenses with a much simpler and fairer broad-based and progressive tax system. At the same time, we’d reduce the costs of unnecessary paper shuffling by an estimated $1 billion per year, according to Dr. William Hsiao’s testimony before the Legislature on Oct. 19, 2010.
$1 billion a year is a lot of money for the state of Maine. If the hospitals could be brought on board -- Maine has an aging population, and a lot of retirees, so medicine is a disproportionately big business -- then the health insurance companies could be out in the cold.
NOTE What about an interstate compact with Vermont?