Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thom Hartmann: A Modest Proposal

In 1729, Jonathan Swift anonymously published A Modest Proposal
For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.
This was a satirical essay suggesting the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.

Today, 280 years later, Thom Hartmann publishes a modest proposal which is not at all satirical.

Dear President Obama,

I understand you’re thinking of dumping your “public option” because of all the demagoguery by Sarah Palin and Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich and their crowd on right-wing radio and Fox. Fine. Good idea, in fact.

Instead, let’s make it simple. Please let us buy into Medicare.

It would be so easy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this so-called “public option” that’s a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. Some people will like it, others won’t – just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy you’re so comfortable with.

Just pass a simple bill – it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people – that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

So it’s revenue neutral!

To make it available to people of low income, raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me - under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people. Revenue neutral again.

Most of us will do damn near anything to get out from under the thumbs of the multi-millionaire CEOs who are running our current insurance programs.

Sign me up!

This lets you blow up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with Blue Cross. Those who like it can buy into it. Simplicity itself.

Of course, we’d like a few fixes, like letting Medicare negotiate drug prices and filling some of the holes Republicans and AARP and the big insurance lobbyists have drilled into Medicare so people have to buy “supplemental” insurance, but that can wait for the second round. Let’s get this done first.

Simple stuff. Medicare for anybody who wants it. Private health insurance for those who don’t. Easy message. Even Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley can understand it. Sarah Palin can buy into it, or ignore it. No death panels, no granny plugs, nothing. Just a few sentences.

Replace the “you must be disabled or 65” with “here’s what it’ll cost if you want to buy in, and here’s the sliding scale of subsidies we’ll give you if you’re poor, paid for by everybody else who’s buying in.” (You could roll back the Reagan tax cuts and make it all free, but that’s another rant.)

We elected you because we expected you to have the courage of your convictions. Here’s how. Not the “single payer Medicare for all” that many of us would prefer, but a simple, “Medicare for anybody who wants to buy in.”


Thom Hartmann

This is Thom's best shot. Now it's our turn to support this modest proposal with our own letters to the President. Our man in the White House needs our help!

14 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

Yes! So simple even someone from Nebraska can understand it, Emily! I'll write a letter to the POTUS tonight!

8/18/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Keller said...

Emily and Vigilante, This plan us so simple and so obvious you simply have to wonder why the President and/or Congress didn't propose it.

Part of the reason, of course, is Medicare is mome away from bankruptcy, perhaps in as little as five years. So, instead Congress is proposing cutting $500,000,000 from Medicare. Seniors have been given vague promises that the coverage will be suplimented "somewhere else in the new program."

Part if the reason us the bizarre deal with the devil that promises Pharma that there will be absolutely no Federal negotiation of drug prices, so Pharma gets an open door to profits.

But I would certainly support such a simple and logical plan, if we can prevent the looming bankruptcy of the current plan.

8/18/2009 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Interesting idea.

I don't know much about Medicare's financial problems, but if it's anything like Social Security's, a small (percentage-wise) increase in revenue could probably fix it.

I hope the USA doesn't wind up settling for the co-op idea. It would be an improvement, I suppose, but not by much.

8/18/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

What an excellent idea! With your permission, I'll take it to twitter. All I have to do is take the http thingy here and tweet it. Might bring some strangers to visit, but if they like the idea it will spread like wildfire.

8/18/2009 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

This is a great idea. I don't agree that Medicare will be bankrupt in five years as mentioned by Wizard. There are literally hundreds of projections as to the future of Medicare. There is no way the government will allow it to fail. No way. As a result I think Thom Hartman has a real plan. I'm with Vigil. I am going to write the president and then talk to him about it when he comes over tonight for BBQ:-)

8/18/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A-ho. Sailing with the crowd. It sounds simple, a fixative. Wondering... what will come next? Re-posting to FB with permisso... Let them over there in UK take a gander...

8/18/2009 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

Mike, I'll bring the tequila, its a great idea. But I hate it when Michelle flirts with me so keep her away from the wine coolers.

8/18/2009 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Vig, thank you so much. You probably know that I had to get to the post right away. An email, followed up by a phone call to President Obama will occur first thing tomorrow.

Thom Hartmann is another of my favorite (and brilliant) Air America jocks. This is a wonderful take on the essay that addicted me to Swift's writings. He did a wonderful job.

Mike, your comment I don't agree that Medicare will be bankrupt in five years as mentioned by Wizard. I'm not so sure, but I can't argue the point, either. Look what happened to the government's first-time car buyer program—bankrupted six months ahead of time.

I've got it all figured out, now. The more I know, the less I know.

8/18/2009 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Fact Checking:

1) Emily picked out Hartmann's piece, not me. Credit her.

2) Cash for Clunkers is not bankrupted; it was just under-funded. Like Medicare and Social Security is underfunded. Like the so-called healthcare "co-ops".

The only thing over-funded in our generation is the military expeditionary forces sent aimlessly into the deserts of Islam.

8/18/2009 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

A note for future reference. The U.K.'s NHS is outlined on Reconstitution. Recommended.

8/18/2009 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I'm not exactly sure WHEN Medicare will go bankrupt but, with the demographic nightmare that's fast approaching, it really only is a question of WHEN.

8/18/2009 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous R.W. Rawles said...

Dear President Obama:

You want a "Uniquely American Solution" to the health care crisis. So do I. Fortunately, we already have a uniquely American solution. It works. It saves money. It's called Medicare. It's the most popular social program in history.

I want expanded and improved Medicare now. For me. For everybody. Just like in Rep. Conyers' bill, HR 676.

Health insurance is not the same as health care. Insurance is for accidents. Health care is not an accident. I want health CARE, not health insurance.

Insurance company flacks and high-paid lobbyists twist the truth about Medicare. It's not "socialized medicine." Medicare is publicly financed, privately delivered health CARE. I have heard the nonsense about "government bureaucrats practicing medicine." The insurance companies paid Harry and Louise to twist the truth in 1994 and spout half-baked "facts" to defeat the Clinton plan. That tactic won't fool me again.

Medicare works for Americans over 65. It will work even better for healthier younger people. Quit looking for a solution that gives the insurance companies more money. Use what works. Give Americans under 65 the same right that seniors have - the right to guaranteed affordable health care with free choice.

Medicare for me. Medicare For All. Everybody In, Nobody Out. Now.

I worked, phoned, wrote and voted for you since your first primary. I expect you to start working for me.


R.W. Rawles

8/18/2009 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The last year that there was a government report on Medicare fraud was 1996. The inspector general of the department of Health and Human Services concluded that Medicare made 23 billion in improper payments (10% of all Medicare costs for 1996). So, while, yes, Medicare has low administrative costs, there clearly are in fact other costs.

8/21/2009 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...


All apologies. That will teach me to read the post's author from now on. Thank you so much for this post.

The only thing over-funded in our generation is the military expeditionary forces sent aimlessly into the deserts of Islam.

Here's some that enrages me: from 200-205, Halliburton stock rose 3,281%. By 2006, the stock rose 40%. If you want to drive yourselves crazy, please visit Halliburton Watch.

8/25/2009 12:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home