Public Options

Programs 258, 259 • 58 mins


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Most nations with advanced economies provide health care for all through a government-financed system. And, of course, the United States offers a basic single-payer plan for seniors: Medicare. But for the rest of the population, health care is a mind-numbingly complex patchwork quilt—as well as a giant money maker for the health care industry. Hence continuing, high-stakes battles over how to care for people’s medical needs at a time when nearly 30 million Americans still lack health coverage. Which is why this remains the subject of ongoing, passionate debate.

Medicare for all? Maintain the system of private insurance, which many people receive from their employer? Or something in-between, like the “public option”? In this special, we hear from two very knowledgeable experts:

Danielle Martin, a family physician and strong advocate of single-payer in Canada and author of Better Now. We listen to a short history of the early battles in Canada to launch Canadian Medicare —including a doctors’ strike— fascinating for Americans to hear.

Jacob Hacker, author of American Amnesia and Yale professor of political science who devised the Public Option, by which people with employer-provided insurance can keep their coverage, but others may opt-in to a new system that would be based on Medicare, which remains highly popular, yet has managed to restrain the medical costs.

I believe that access to health care should be based on need, not ability to pay. I think it’s a driving force, actually, for most people who enter the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. So I am very grateful to work in a system where I don’t have to think about whether my patients have coverage… It’s bad enough to be sick without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for your care.”

—Danielle Martin, family physician in Toronto, Canada


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