Last week Bernie Sanders introduced his version of health care reform, a plan he calls “Medicare for all.”
This is Trahant Reports.
Medicare for All is “where the country has got to go,” Sanders told The Washington Post. “Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way.”
Sanders’ bill has no chance in a Republican Congress.
Yet the Vermont Independent (who caucuses with the Democrats) is adding to the richness of the debate. He is showing a clear alternative to the many Republican plans, including the latest by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana.
Indian Country should take note.
Sanders bill would fully-fund the Indian health system.
Let’s do the math. The current budget for the Indian Health Service is $6.091 billion dollars. And of that, roughly $1.2 billion will come from Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance. This serves about 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in 39 states.
So if Sanders’ proposal for universal care were enacted, every one of those 2.2 million patients would have funding from insurance. The national average for a Medicare beneficiary is $10,986. That total: $24.191 billion. A four-fold increase (and this does not even include appropriations, just insurance dollars). So if you include both, the total is roughly $30 billion.
This sound like an awful lot of money, right?
Yet that big number reflects what other health systems already spend. So actually it’s the ideal demonstration of just how underfunded the Indian Health Service is under current law. This is what a fully-funded Treaty Right looks like.
Of course some of this can be done now, even without Sanders’ bill. Many people in tribal communities are posting on Facebook exactly how to sign up for Medicaid (the government insurance program that so many in Indian Country already qualify for.) They are doing this as an act of defiance, because the Trump administration has recently quit advertising the program and is not actively promoting sign-ups.
So, again, let’s do the math. If every American Indian and Alaska Native was eligible for Medicaid that would net the Indian health system about $7.211 billion.
Either way, Medicare or Medicaid: This is what full funding looks like. And a Treaty Right fulfilled. I am Mark Trahant.