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July 11, 2007

Is Medicare Radical?

I like this bit from Dean Baker:

The Washington Post Calls Medicare "Radical"

To be more precise, it called offering a Medicare type government-run health plan to all Americans a "potentially radical idea." It's not clear why extending a 40 year-old program on a voluntary basis should be viewed as a radical proposition.

It's very clear why a program like Medicare-for-All is viewed as a radical proposition: Because the media says it's a radical proposition. If Medicare's restriction to the 65-and-up set were treated as a bizarre incongruity by the nation's press, politicians proposing to expand it to all ages would be seen as fixing an inexplicable quirk of the original legislation, not trying to drop an iron curtain across Nebraska. Since the press suggests that Medicare-for-All is a radical idea, however, it's treated as one, and its utter obviousness is deemphasized.

July 11, 2007 | Permalink


Agreed, but it isn't a tweak, either. Measured by impact, anyway. Pretty big stuff from the perspective of a lot of people.

Posted by: TigerHawk | Jul 11, 2007 2:58:13 PM

Did you say voluntary? As in, we don't have to pay in? Becuase if you can only volunteer to use the benefits but payment is mandatory, that's not voluntary.

But if it is voluntary, I'm all for it.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Jul 11, 2007 3:12:48 PM

It's very clear why a program like Medicare-for-All is viewed as a radical proposition: Because the media says it's a radical proposition.

Baloney. First, the idea is called "potentially radical," and it's in the context of an article called "For Democrats, Pragmatism On Universal Health Care." The article explains, "If most Americans chose that option, it essentially would create a government-run health-care system." It's perfectly fair to view that possible outcome as a radical change, especially in contrast to the relatively tame proposals the article focuses on.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 3:13:20 PM

Some type of hybrid model is the only way it can work. Because completely removing everyperson's healthcare consumption from costs is a recipe for disaster. The 100,000 dollar ICU stays for 95 year old completely demented people is rampant now. Having 300 million trying to "get their fair share" out of the system will cause it to collapse.

Posted by: Dingo | Jul 11, 2007 3:34:53 PM

Ezra- note Bush's comment today (via Froomkin via Drum), since I want to raise your blood pressure even more:
"The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America," he said. "After all, you just go to an emergency room."
You want to talk radical- flushing money down the toilet like that is radical.

Posted by: SP | Jul 11, 2007 4:59:55 PM

seems to me the problem with radical is the connotation that the idea is excessively extreme, past the fringe of normal thought. isn't that Ezra's main point, that medicare-for-all should not be past the fringe of normal thought, it could be near the center of normal thought and would be viewed differently if our arbiters of discourse decided so.

Posted by: BillCross | Jul 11, 2007 5:20:25 PM

Apparently the American people are radicals, and the only non radicals are the Washington Post and Sanpete:



Posted by: akaison | Jul 11, 2007 5:24:37 PM

What I said is that there was nothing in the least wrong with the article's use of "radical" in the context and with the qualification given. Are the links supposed to address that somehow?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 6:35:50 PM

Apparently Sanpete has also not heard of connonation

Posted by: akaison | Jul 11, 2007 6:53:16 PM

The connotations of the word as used in this context are just fine, for the reasons I pointed out.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 7:44:17 PM

Radical? I dunno, but I'd yield tubular at least.

Posted by: Senescent | Jul 11, 2007 8:16:04 PM

Are Canadians radicals? Are the Brits? How about the Japanese, are they radicals?

I'm disgusted by the tiny margains of acceptable discourse in this country. An idea like universal single payer health care is not radical when it has been adopted by every other industrialized nation. Our system is radical; it costs more, delivers less, and causes the destruction and deterioration of lives through bankruptcy, denial of care, and inflexibility in the labor force.

Posted by: tomboy | Jul 11, 2007 8:23:34 PM


this is why i call you mentally lazy. you respond to a point about connotation by repeating the denotation.

here's what connotation means:

"the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning: A possible connotation of “home” is “a place of warmth, comfort, and affection.”

Telling us this : "The article explains, "If most Americans chose that option, it essentially would create a government-run health-care system." It's perfectly fair to view that possible outcome as a radical change, especially in contrast to the relatively tame proposals the article focuses on."

That's not a response to whether radical has a connotation. It's a response to literal definition of the word radical. It's the equivalent of someone asking you what home is, and you saying:

"a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household. "

Technically correct, but lazy nevertheless as to questions of connotation. A response to a question of connotation is not to repeat back to people the denotation. It simply makes you appear thick and obstenant for the purpose of being contrary. I know you want get any of this, and for that reason this iwll be last post along this thread on this topic.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 11, 2007 8:49:38 PM

by the way I did forgot to mention one point- the connotation of radical - especially in american politics- is negative, not positive or neutral. So your whole, but this is the definition of the word radical is true of one doesn't think of context or connotation.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 11, 2007 9:02:49 PM

It is a radical idea in that it suggests ill people should be free to marshall all their resources to fight their ailment and get well again, instead of being stressed out finding private network physicians, fighting for referrals, getting pre-approval for tests, fighting denied claims, coping with copays and lifetime limits, etc.

Posted by: bob h | Jul 11, 2007 9:17:26 PM

Akaison, if you want to make a point, make it. Don't bother projecting your own defects onto what I say instead. When you ignore what I actually say and give no argument, it's ridiculous to call me lazy. And you're the one who doesn't understand connotation. Did you notice your explanation contains the words "possible connotation"? The connotations of a word, like its explicit meaning, depend on context. What are the connotations of "home" in "the home plate was covered with dirt"?

Again, the article doesn't even call the Medicare-for-All option radical. It calls it potentially radical, referring to a possible result, which would indeed be a fundamental change in health care here, a radical change from what we have now. There is no negative connotation implicit in the context of the article. On the contrary, it's the one point that is treated as actually going beyond the politically safe in its possible implications.

Context matters.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 9:32:50 PM

Medicare-for-all: "All you can eat" health care with little to no cost control mechanisms?

Given that the largest concern of most Americans is rising cost-- radical isn't the worst word choice.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 11, 2007 9:47:04 PM

wisewon... you stole my thunder on this one. I was going to make some snappy comment re: how radical/crazy/washingtonesque it is to propose the expansion of a system that seem to have little cost control.

Posted by: DM | Jul 11, 2007 10:07:56 PM

Medicare is better at controlling costs than private insurers.

Posted by: Joshua | Jul 12, 2007 10:22:52 AM

stop calling it Medicare-for-all. that sounds like it'll be mandated and immediately lends itself to socialized medicine cries. call it medicare-opt-in.

Posted by: anon | Jul 12, 2007 10:46:51 AM


And if our only option is expanding Medicare, or the status quo, you'd have a point. But this isn't our only option.

Posted by: DM | Jul 12, 2007 11:14:41 AM

So who has the biggest lobbying power the American middle class, the medical industry, or the insurance industry? The answer is obviously between the two industries since the middle class has no lobby. I think for the middle class the only options really are expanding Medicare or the status quo (or something so radically the same that it might as well be the status quo). Regulating either the medical or insurance industries will just lead to us paying more both in taxes and in costs for insurance and medical care.

Posted by: Ricky | Jul 12, 2007 12:14:50 PM

"So who has the biggest lobbying power the American middle class, the medical industry, or the insurance industry?"

Its the insurance industry and its not even close. For every lobbyist that works for doctor organizations like the AMA, there are more than a hundred that work for the insurance sector.

Lets face it, doctors will always have a job and make money, no matter whatever system we have. You cant have healthcare without doctors so they are always going to be part of the picture.

But the insurance industry is totally optional and they realize this fact. Michael Moore is an idiot, but he's right with his plan of eliminating the private insurance industry.

They are inefficient middle men who add ZERO VALUE to the system and do nohting but siphon money out.

Consider Hillary Clinton. She was in favor of eliminating private insurance just like Moore, but since her 93 proposal she has done an about-face on this, and now wants a "half ass" systme that keeps tshe private insurers in play.

Why would she flip flop? Because it wasnt the doctors that killed her plans in 93, it was the private insurance sector. They have billions at their disposal and they will spend ALL OF IT to prevent a single payer model from coming into existence.

Hillary and the rest of the democrats (not to mention repubs) all work at the behest of the private insurance sector. Thats why exactly NONE of them is proposing a "medicare for all" or any kind of single payer model.

Posted by: joe blow | Jul 12, 2007 2:53:02 PM

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