Can States Fix the Disaster of American Health Care?
The governor of California has proposed some big ideas. Who knows whether he can pull them off, but there’s reason for hope.
Last week, California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, promised to pursue a smorgasbord of changes to his state’s health care system: state negotiation of drug prices; a requirement that every Californian have health insurance; more assistance to help middle-class Californians afford it; and health care for undocumented immigrants up to age 26.
The proposals fell short of the sweeping government-run single-payer plan Mr. Newsom had supported during his campaign — a system in which the state government would pay all the bills and effectively control the rates paid for services. (Many California politicians before him had flirted with such an idea, before backing off when it was estimated that it could cost $400 billion a year.) But in firing off this opening salvo, Mr. Newsom has challenged the notion that states can’t meaningfully tackle health care on their own. And he’s not alone.
A day later, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington proposed that his state offer a public plan, with rates tied to those of Medicare, to compete with private offerings.
New Mexico is considering a plan that would allow any resident to buy into the state’s Medicaid program. And this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced a plan to expand health care access to uninsured, low-income residents of the city, including undocumented immigrants.
For over a decade, we’ve been waiting for Washington to solve our health care woes, with endless political wrangling and mixed results. Around 70 percent of Americans have said that health care is “in a state of crisis” or has “major problems.” Now, with Washington in total dysfunction, state and local politicians are taking up the baton.