Right now in 2017, we live in the state with the highest median income in the richest country in the history of the world. At the same time, more than 350,000 of us lack health insurance and total healthcare spending has increased by more than a trillion dollars in the last decade, choking small businesses and pushing our neighbors into poverty.
The current system isn’t working, and we have a moral and economic imperative to act.
Marylanders deserve a better deal on healthcare and if Washington won’t act, we will. There is no structural reason for hundreds of thousands of Marylanders being unable to afford healthcare. We know how to fix our current system and we have the resources available to do it.
But we haven’t. That is unconscionable.
It is long past time for change. A true Medicare for All system that extends affordable and quality healthcare to every Marylander – and saves countless lives in the process – is well within our grasp. Getting it done requires the courage to stand up to both the special interests who profit off our current system’s shortcomings and to those whose lack of political will continues to hold us back.
Maryland is better positioned than any other state to make universal healthcare a reality. In fact, Maryland’s existing “All-Payer” system makes this plan a natural progression rather than a radical change. Since Governor O’Malley last updated the program in 2014, All-Payer has saved $429 million and helped foster better care for countless Marylanders. We can build on this progress to achieve Medicare for All.
Nationally, we made great progress with the Affordable Care Act, but there is more to be done and there’s no question that our existing system remains broken. Our healthcare exists at the mercy of a dangerous demagogue in Washington who recently sabotaged our current system out of nothing but pure spite, causing rate increases as high as 76% in just one year.
Our governor was more than willing to stand by and let the premiums we pay skyrocket because he’s more concerned with his own political interests than with doing his job to protect Marylanders.
These shortcomings deprive Marylanders of the healthcare they need to improve their lives and hold our economy back. Over the past 10 years, employers’ insurance rates have increased by 55% (nearly double the rate of inflation), often with sizeable and unpredictable yearly fluctuations.
As any small business owner can attest, this uncertainty reduces hiring, leading to fewer jobs and less economic growth. The model of having businesses provide healthcare has never been ideal for either employers or workers. By separating the responsibility, we can free entrepreneurs to focus on growing their businesses and allow employees to find the best jobs available without worrying about losing their care.
We’re going to build a new model that will cover all Marylanders and get costs under control. No longer will families go bankrupt because a loved one suffers from a serious health condition.
All residents will be safer and healthier with access to key preventive health services like regular checkups and cancer screenings, thus reducing burdens on our health infrastructure down the road.
Marylanders will be able to choose their healthcare provider rather than be dictated to by insurance companies, and healthcare decisions will be made by healthcare providers in consultation with their patients. Any Marylander with a great idea for a new business will be able pursue that passion and enrich our economy, without fear of losing healthcare coverage for their family.
Marylanders are ready. It’s time to listen to the people and implement a Medicare for All model that will strengthen families, boost our economy, and save lives.
Let’s get to work.
Ben Jealous is the former CEO and president of the NAACP and is currently running for governor of Maryland.