Some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have called for the abolishment of the private healthcare industry, but not Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Indiana mayor has just released his version of Medicare reform–colloquially called Medicare for All Who Want It.
The part of this proposal that separates him from progressive candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is that his plan leaves private insurance intact–for now.
Buttigieg said his healthcare goals can be accomplished by building on the Affordable Care Act. In practice, that looks like increasing subsidies for low- and middle-income consumers in the ACA marketplace and making a public “Medicare-type insurance plan” available for all Americans.
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The road to Medicare for All
The goal of the proposal is to generate more competition between private insurers, who then have to compete with the low prices and wide range of coverage of Medicare. He suspects that more people will choose Medicare, and gradually move the country to a Medicare for All single-payer system.
This proposal has ostensibly been in the works for months. In the second round of Democratic debates in July, Buttigieg said: “If people like me are right that the public alternative is going to be not only more comprehensive, but more affordable than any of the corporate options around there, we’ll see Americans walk away from the corporate options into that Medicare option, and it will become Medicare for All without us having to kick anybody off their insurance.”
The proposal underscores the importance of improving healthcare in rural communities where citizens often don’t have quality healthcare and lack choices.
To boost healthcare quality and coverage in these areas, the proposal outlines several ideas to attract doctors:
- Forgive student loans for healthcare providers working in rural areas,
- Aggressively recruit immigrant doctors,
- Increase Medicare reimbursement rates, and
- Increase medical training for those working in rural areas.
The proposal also outlines a way to increase access to telemedicine in rural communities: universal coverage of high-speed broadband Internet across the country.
The proposal wraps up with a bit of a warning to private insurers: “If corporate insurers don’t lower costs to deliver something dramatically better than what is available today, competition will lead us towards Medicare for All.”
The plan does not yet have a price tag, but health policy experts fear it may be too high to get the current Congress on board.
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