My Fellow Americans -- The Speech Obama Should Give on Health Care
Continued from previous page
By the way, I want to introduce, in the gallery, Shirley Jean Douglass, whose father, Tommy Douglass, was the founder of Canada’s Medicare program. We will be consulting closely with experts and administrators of Canada’s Medicare program as we move forward with our own reform. (applause)
Now I've been accused of lecturing (laughs and applause), and I don’t want to sound like a college professor here, but let me just highlight a few reasons why simply expanding Medicare to cover all of us makes not just moral -- but also economic -- sense.
If we were to make that change, we could immediately eliminate the Medicaid program, which as you know is funded by the states, and costs them (and you) about $400 billion a year, mostly to cover low-income families and individuals. Now, that money would not be totally eliminated, because Medicare currently doesn’t cover all health care costs -- just 80 percent. And Medicaid covers the remaining 20 percent for those elderly and disabled people who cannot afford to pay for Medi-Gap private plans. The government would continue to have to subsidize that share for lower-income folks.
Even so, eliminating Medicaid for the poor, who would be switched to Medicare, would save at least $300 billion. We could also eliminate the Veterans Administration -- which, incidentally, is an excellent example of true government health care, with publicly owned hospitals and doctors on salary, and it runs very well and very efficiently.
Something those folks at last month’s town meetings who were saying government can’t do anything right should think about. (wild applause from Democratic side)
Sorry. I just had to say that. (more applause)
Anyhow, eliminating the VA would save another $100 billion, so we’ve already saved more than half the amount that was added to the cost of Medicare in order to cover everyone. (applause)
But there are far more savings.
One of the biggest would be the elimination of about $300 billion that is spent each year by hospitals and doctors to provide care to people with no insurance who end up in hospital emergency rooms. The cost of this “charity care” is factored into higher hospital and physician bills, and ultimately into higher insurance premiums paid by the rest of us. Since all those people would now be covered by Medicare, that expense would vanish.
American companies currently pay about $25 billion a year in workers compensation insurance -- money that ultimately comes out of workers’ paychecks. That would no longer be necessary, because people injured on the job would be covered by Medicare. (smattering of applause, mostly from Republican side)
Car insurance rates would be dramatically lower, because car insurance would no longer have to pay for medical costs following an accident. The same is true for homeowners' insurance, which would no longer have to cover the costs of someone being injured on your property. (applause from Pennsylvania delegation, with among highest car insurance rates in the nation)
And of course, the biggest savings of all -- about $3000 per person, or $12,000 per family, every year -- namely the cost of private insurance premiums paid by you and/or your employer, would be gone. Think about that a minute: no more co-pays, no more annual deductibles, no more employee share of insurance premiums for yourself or your family. And for businesses that currently provide health-care coverage, a huge savings that will make them more competitive in the global marketplace, and will also allow them to pay higher wages to their employees. (prolonged applause)