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How to Get Universal Health Care

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they believe in giving Americans universal health care. I don’t believe them. Anyone who takes the time to understand universal health care should conclude that only a simple single payer system will reform the current outrageous system that benefits the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

The contorted plans from Clinton and Obama are not sufficient reforms. And what John McCain has proposed is sheer nonsense and by itself should cause any conscious American to avoid voting for him.

Fights for health care system reform are centered in Congress, as if legislators will do what they have never done before: achieve true, major and systemic reforms that only serve the public interest, not lobbyists and campaign contributors from business sectors.

Both Clinton and Obama believe that Americans have a moral right to universal health care. If this is correct and if this is what you believe, then achieving universal health care that covers absolutely everyone by making health care affordable to absolutely everyone, as it is in many other nations, requires a different kind of government action. What exactly?

We must expand the Bill of Rights as embodied in the US Constitution to include the right to affordable universal health care. The time has come for the public to conclude that the right to universal health care is as important and necessary as the right to free speech and all the other beloved constitutional rights.

After all, what good are our current constitutional rights if you are ill or dying prematurely because of a lack of good health insurance? Certainly the pursuit of happiness cannot be successful when individuals are suffering from poor health because of inadequate health care.

Why would sensible, caring Americans be against a constitutional right to universal health care? Are there people who would stand up and publicly condemn the right of all Americans to have first rate health care? The only ones I can imagine doing this are those who are now benefiting financially from the current unjust system and want to keep blocking necessary congressional actions.

What Obama and Clinton should explicitly and loudly advocate is a constitutional amendment that makes universal health care a nonnegotiable right of all Americans.

Why has no member of Congress submitted legislation to get Congress to propose such an amendment for ratification by the states? Clearly, the only rational answer is that the many business interests that have corrupted Congress and that benefit from the current system have prevented proposal of such an amendment.

Article V of the Constitution provides only one alternative to Congress proposing amendments. That option has never been used in the entire history of the US. The Article V convention option was put in the Constitution because the Founders and Framers believed that one day, Americans would lose trust and confidence in the federal government. With 81 percent of Americans believing the nation is on the wrong track, and with so many millions of Americans lacking good health insurance and care, that day has surely arrived. With abysmally low levels of confidence in Congress and the president, an Article V convention – a temporary fourth branch of the federal government – is clearly the right path to obtaining a universal health care amendment. A convention of state delegates could debate such an amendment, and if they agreed to propose it, then the standard ratification by three-quarters of the states would still be necessary.

Yes, this would probably take a few years. But it would be worth it. The prospect of Congress, even with Clinton or Obama as president, achieving true universal health care without loopholes benefiting various business sectors faster than the amendment approach is not good. The process of pursuing such an amendment, moreover, would help keep pressure on Congress to do the right thing.

If this sounds reasonable and necessary, then learn the truth about the Article V option at Friends of the Article V Convention and start talking up a universal health care amendment.

About Joel S. Hirschhorn

Formerly full professor Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and senior official Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and National Governors Association. Author of four nonfiction books and hundreds of articles.
  • Clavos

    Maurice #49,


    You’re right; we must insist that any proposed new plans must include portability.

  • bliffle

    “But then, employees in the private sector are held accountable for their work.”

    They are held accountable for costs and revenues but not health delivery. The cost accountability is what has led to a lot of abuses, especially about ‘pre-existing’ conditions and elective surgery , etc. Revenue accountability has the perverse effect of motivating them to inflate your bills.

    If the private insurance business were truly competitive then ‘clients’ would be able to hold the companies accountable, but it is not. The McCarran-Ferguson act of 1945 specifically exempts them from federal regulation, leaving only the ultra-weak state regulators. As a consequence they have formed an oligopoly wherein they share markets by mutual consent. The client is closed out of the decision system.

    What we have is an administered economy, not a Free Market economy. And it’s administered by the companies themselves. For their own benefit, not the clients.

    Employer provided healthcare became common after WW2 when employers sought to add non-wage benefits to employment offers in order to use non-monetary compensation to build loyalty at low cost through insurance. Large companies had the management and fiscal skills and market clout to keep the insurance companies honest. When the insCos tried to screw the corps with unreasonable premiums the corps retaliated by ‘self-insuring’, whereby the corp would endow the pool funds themselves and just hire out the paperwork at low rates to the insCos. That worked good because the corp generally looked out for their employees.

    But that excluded non-corp people like the self-employed and unemployed or retired, who found themselves confronted by ultra-high premiums and exclusions.

    Now, in these modern times, the corps don’t care about their employees or their loyalty, in fact may be antagonistic to their own employees, so even corp employees are thrown into the pool of lonely disorganized individuals easily exploited by Big Bully insurance cos.

    The only organization remaining to represent the interests of individuals is the government, and that’s why UHC is in our futures.

  • Clavos

    The only organization remaining to represent the interests of individuals is the government…

    And it doesn’t (thank goodness!!).

    You certainly paint a grim picture, bliffle.

    You think health care is bad now…

  • bliffle

    Clavos insists on ignoring the information available at the end of his nose. UHC exists in most of the other industrialized nations and is always less expensive and easier to use than the ramshackle USA system.

    Habitually ignoring evidence is what leads people to be called ignorant.

  • Fraud hunter

    Regarding Bliffle in the Federal Fraud hunting busienss. The current systems employed by Mewdicare and Medicaid amount to counting the number of horses rounded up afer the barn door is unlocked. This is the only business in the world where the customer (us) pays bills without any verification that any service was acutally delivered. At least in the private sector you get an explanation of benefits and have an increasing portion you are responsible for. In medicare and Medicaid, providers can bill to their hearts content and nobody gets a notice saying “this doctor billed on your behalf” . Furthermore, there is no way to adequately report fraud.

    Instead of playin cops & robbers, they should use existing technology to precent fraud. It can be done.

  • Clavos

    UHC exists in most of the other industrialized nations and is always less expensive and easier to use than the ramshackle USA system.

    You obviously haven’t read any of the horror stories emanating from countries with UHC, bliffle.

    In those countries where it works, they don’t have the US government operating it for them; if they did, it wouldn’t be working. As I’ve said a multitude of times before, I have direct, hands on multi year experience with US government health insurance.

    It’s a nightmare, with deficiencies in every area the consumer is forced to deal with.

    Your endorsement of government interfering yet more in people’s lives, while not ignorant (except for your faith in the integrity and efficiency of the US government), does seem to be one of advocacy beyond the well being of the people. Are you a government employee, active or retired?

  • bliffle

    Not at all. Medical care that I and my relatives and in-laws have experienced in Europe is easily available, good quality, and inexpensive.

    And no one in Europe wants the US system.

  • Clavos

    And no one in Europe wants the US system.

    Understandably. What’s not understandable is your desire to turn the management of the health care of the people here over to the worst possible entity in the country.

    Let the Feds (i.e. US) pay for it, but hell give it to Mrs. Smith’s third graders to run rather than letting our government of bumblers and slackers do it.

    The kids will certainly do it better.

  • Zedd


    Come on. The entire world is aboard and they are all fine. What are you arguing? Who says that UHC would be administrated in the same way that you’ve experienced state medicine? Who said that? That seems to be the premise by which your argument arises from. But I have heard NO ONE say that the administration of UHC would be the same as what exists or has existed. So what are you all in a tizzy about? Okay, we get it, you were annoyed by the processes that you had to under go. But what does that have to do with the ridiculous system which leaves millions of Americans in a bind, especially as the population ages?

    OMG I just realizes something. You’ve been discussing substantive issues for three days. Are you alright? Now we have to work on you being right :o)

  • Cannonshop

    A couple of observations- we have TWO examples of “Universal Healthcare” to look at in operation in the U.S.

    1. Medicare.

    2. VA (Veteran’s Administration) or Military health-care.

    Neither has a good record for providing good quality of care. Both are notorious for financial mismanagement, poor patient care (Walter Reed anyone?), frequent mistakes (Overbilling, fraudulent payment, “Losing” money and resources, not to mention poor response to consumer issues!)

    Now,there are lots of countries that don’t have these problems (or, at least, don’t admit to having those problems.)

    those countries don’t have guys like Karl Rove or George Soros influencing who holds office, nor do they have the kind of corruption the U.S. Federal Government suffers from and has suffered from since the Grant Administration.

    y’see, here in the U.S. the people who make a life of Civil Service usually do so, because they lack the ability to make a life OUTSIDE of civil Service. It isn’t like much of Europe, where Merit actually matters and kids WANT to go into government, study to go in, and it has a respectability. HERE, everyone knows what a “Civil Servant” really is-he’s isolated from economic down-turns and can’t be fired, is never held accountable for mistakes, and is usually someone incapable of earning a living outside of a Federal office.

    “Rule by the Worst” or Kakocracy.

  • bliffle

    All are arguable points, cannon, but I have more interesting things to do at this moment.