By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Last week, I wrote about how political candidates are being tagged with that seemingly evil “socialist” label for advocating that more government resources be redirected to health, education and other social needs.
But it is also true that Democratic candidates for president are falling over themselves to make one promise after the other, many of which Congress will never approve and all of which would be a major cost to the treasury. However, that is still a far cry from being a socialist. Sadly, some in the political world care very little about the honesty of such a charge, but rather hope that the label of socialist will stick. That is the state of our politics by vilification today.
But the issue of health care for all Americans will dominate the national debate over the next year. Was it accurate to call Medicare or Medicaid socialism when enacted over 50 years ago? Is it socialism to go the next step and provide health care coverage for all Americans regardless of their ability to pay? That is the big question. And how would such a system be paid for?
President Obama tried to do that with passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” That program was predicated on the fiscal reality that all persons needed to participate, not just the chronically ill, in order to fund the program. So as part of underwriting the cost, all uninsured persons would need to enroll before they might be sick and in need of benefits, or pay a tax if they did not enroll. However, after Obama left office Congress eliminated the tax, which in the long run will jeopardize the solvency of the program.
So the basic question is, do American voters want universal health coverage and a way to pay for it?
American politics is incremental. Rarely does Congress enact sweeping reform of anything. It’s usually piecemeal baby steps. So at the risk of being called a “socialist,” here is an idea. But first some history.
Today we take for granted that all children are guaranteed a free education from pre-k through high school. But education was not always available for all students. It was only towards the middle of the 1800’s that public education was guaranteed for all and financed through government taxes. Of course, the wealthy can always opt to enroll their children in private schools. But they still have to pay their taxes, which includes monies for public education.
So what I propose is similar. I say let’s provide free universal health coverage for all children. No ifs ands or buts. I call it “Medikids.” As with education, every child would be entitled to health care, including prescription drugs. No family should be denied necessary medical services for their kids, be it a common cold or complex cancer. Nor should they be charged.
If we can agree on the proposition that all children should receive the health care they need without hurling slurs and name calling at one and other, then we will have made a good start. If not, just call me a socialist!