What Obama’s Next Steps Should Be on Health Care

The following article is from AlterNet. AlterNet asked dozens of writers, experts and activists on key issues to write about where the country needs to go, and the priorities for Barack Obama’s early days in office.

By Sara Robinson, fellow, Campaign for America’s Future

The most important thing for incoming Obama policy makers to remember right now is that, while Obamacare is a fine step in the right direction, they shouldn’t be shy about using the words “single payer.” (Or, put it another way: Medicare for all.) The K Street lobbyists for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies may scream bloody murder whenever the idea is floated, but the polls over the past several years have shown irrefutably that the American public — including a majority of Republicans — is behind this idea at least 2 to 1. That’s a lot of political cover, and they should take full advantage of it to do the right thing.

It’s also an absolutely necessary thing. American workers are competing with European and Canadian workers who have the choice to go back to school, start a small business, take time off and travel, stay home with their kids for a few years, fully recuperate from a disabling condition, or tell their boss where they can stick it without the threat of losing their insurance. Having guaranteed health care not only makes these workers physically healthier and extends their productive years; it also increases these countries’ social and economic capital by enabling them to become better skilled, better traveled, more entrepreneurial and more personally fulfilled. American workers simply can’t compete on an equal footing in a tight global labor market until they have equal access to care.

It’s also the right thing to do economically. A new Harvard Law School study found that more than half of the mortgage defaults underlying the subprime meltdown were triggered by overwhelming medical bills or job loss due to disability. It’s probably not an overstatement to say that much of America’s current financial distress is the direct product of our health care crisis. (It’s ironic that the same financial wizards who so boldly proclaimed that we were all on our own — or should be — are now losing everything because they simply didn’t notice how interconnected these issues are. If they’d shared just enough of their loot to ensure that Americans had decent health care, they’d still be Masters of the Universe. They didn’t. So we don’t. So they aren’t. Who says there’s no such thing as karma?)

Most importantly: It’s the best thing an incoming Obama administration can do to usher in a new and enduring progressive era. Giving every American access to health care will do more to undercut the entire conservative worldview and replace it with a new progressive political philosophy than anything else you can name. Once people realize that government can do this much good for this many people, it will restore our faith in the power of democracy — and when that happens, all manner of now-impossible things will suddenly become possible.


  1. Peter Christiansen on November 7, 2008 at 3:14 am

    With more and more people losing their jobs evertday, President Obama should immediately open up medicaid programs to anyone who has lost their job or is unable to find a job, and their families, with no restrictions, until a single payer plan can be implemented. Unemployed American workers and their familes also deserve a bailout from the present economic emergency.

  2. Eliza Jane Dodd on November 10, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I am 46 and I have had cancer and horrific health care nightmare several times .I was refused care @ a county hospital in Jackson Tn . and told to go home and die .There is nothing they could do for me .I had to do a natural cure to save my own life .I have several more even with BCBS of Tn ..the OBGYN gave me VIOXX for Vulva cancer and not until the ultra sound probbe broke off inside of me did I get a operation .I was paying $7,500 a yr @ 17 years and only asked to use it ONE TIME .This was Blue Cross of Tennessee .Please people in America dont let me die I am only 46 yrs old .I want to live .