Vermont and the State of Washington can both boast of strong proponents of health care reform. We have Bernie Sanders and they have Rep. Jim McDermott. McDermott is in his 12th term in congress and he is a vocal proponent of liberal causes. Support of a single payer health care system is near the top of his list.
Last week word leaked out that McDermott was about to introduce a bill that would allow states to create their own health care systems, providing flexibility for something akin to Medicare for All. From what I have been able to find out, the bill also has the potential to push Republicans up against the wall of their own rhetoric.
One of the recent mantras of Tea Partyers and many Republicans is that the federal government has grown too big and that states should be given more power to innovate and create their own programs. That is what McDermott's bill intends to do.
The bill would not only allow for single payer experiments, but it would also let states figure out ways to create their own health care systems. If Texas wants to have a wild-west free market system open to the highest health insurance bidder, they would be able to do so.
According to an article in the May 25 LA Times by David Lazarus, "McDermott's bill is based on the congressman's belief that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld and the congressman's new bill is meant to achieve the overall goals of the Affordable Care Act while giving states the
Lazarus also noted that, "A draft of McDermott's bill says that to receive federal funds, states would have to offer a healthcare plan with the same benefits as the most popular plan available to federal government employees. It also says the state plan would have to cover any out-of-state treatment received by residents."
It might seem impossible to pass such a bill in the Republican controlled House. It will surely be a monumental uphill battle. But McDermott has a secret weapon in this bill, something that could force Republicans to take the bill seriously in an election year.
If McDermott plays his political cards well he will push the states' rights angle as hard as he can. He is up against the most reactionary far right congress this country has ever seen so he needs to dangle a lot of tasty carrots in front of them. They may see the bill as a Trojan horse, but McDermott needs to show them it is really a bill that has the potential to please a wide variety of politicians as well as voters
Single payer proponent Don McCanne put things into perspective when he explained, "Many conservatives such as Mitt Romney who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") have said that states should be allowed to make their own decisions in health care reform. In fact, Gov. Romney supported and signed into law the Massachusetts reform plan ("Romneycare," which is a model very similar to that of the Affordable Care Act). He has stated repeatedly that, if elected president, he would support the repeal of Obamacare, but in its place he would support states in their efforts to enact their own reform."
McCanne went on to say, "Rep. McDermott's legislation would allow conservatives in Congress to stand up for states' rights, while joining with progressives who would like to see better and more effective use of our health care funds."
If McDermott can get Obama to publicly support his bill and use it as a way to force Romney and other Republicans to put their money where their mouth is, this country would be able to take a small step forward, away from the current state of gridlock.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at email@example.com.