Salon Article: Progressive Prescription

Progressive Prescription: Analyze, Implement, Fix the New Law


Full article published in Salon, May 22, 2010:

Two months after it became law, many progressives are still simmering over healthcare reform, convinced that it did too much for private insurers and too little for average Americans. The stakes are high: Demagogues on the right are whipping up fear of the new law in hopes of big gains in the November elections — and counting on progressives to stay home.

Progressives can do better than play into the right’s hand. We share the long-term goal of a universal “Medicare for all” system, and the law has lots of flaws. But too many progressives are ignoring the important improvements to access and quality of care that the new law will achieve — and the policy space that it creates to go further in the future. The article explores four myths that have unduly undermined progressive enthusiasm for the new law:

Myth: Progressive activists should ignore or undermine the new law.  It’s not single payer.

Reality: An effective political movement requires both idealistic foot soldiers and politicians capable of achieving the art of the possible.

Myth: The new law won’t save money because the insurance industry is still standing.

Reality: The law begins to address the major drivers of excess healthcare costs: the overuse and high prices of new technologies and drugs, and social and economic inequalities.

Myth: The insurance industry is still standing because President Obama made a backroom deal.

Reality: The president made a well-publicized deal with the entire healthcare industry, which is still a force to reckon with.

Myth: The country is ready to go for a Medicare-for-all single-payer system, run by the government.

Reality: The country has mixed feelings about the government. While only the public sector can truly create affordable coverage for quality care for everyone, we need to contest with corporations for the policy direction of the state.

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