The Plank

Fighting The Good Fight On Health Care

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Last week, the most well-known advocates of single-payer health insurance were less than enthusiastic about the launch of Health Care for America Now (HCAN). HCAN has called for the creation of a universal coverage system that includes the option of enrolling in a public insurance plan. It's not the same as offering a true single-payer system, in which everybody (or virtually everybody) got insurance from a public insurance program. But it's good enough for now--and probably as good as we''ll get politically, at least for the forseeable future.

Or so I argued in a recent article. As promised, we invited Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Plan to respond. He has--and the response appears here. I mentioned last week that Don's daily emails from PNHP have been a frequent source of inspiration and story ideas. What I didn't mention was that PNHP also deserves a lot of credit for having championed universal coverage consistently over the last 20 years, including many times when it was highly unfashionable politically 

And speaking of things I didn't mention, this would also be a good time to give some credit to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). As I noted in my article, the principles HCAN has embraced look a lot like the plan developed by political scientist Jacob Hacker, formerly of Yale and now of California-Berekely. And this isn't coincidental, since one of the groups behind HCAN is the Campaign for America's Future, the progressive group that has been pushing Hacker's plan for a while now.

What I didn't mention was EPI's instrumental role in the process. EPI is the plan's official publisher--it's part of their Shared Prosperity Agenda. Among other things, EPI staff worked with Hacker on fleshing out the plan's details, so that the Lewin Group--a respected health care consulting group--could estimate its cost impact. The Lewin Group ended up concluding that such a plan could save money over the long run, just as Hacker had always claimed, which is a big reason the concept is getting such serious attention now.

EPI doesn't always get the recognition they deserve, so consider this my attempt to help change that.

--Jonathan Cohn 

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