By: Emma Kiesling, Adam Graubart
Bold vs. Old Recap: Part 4 of 5
In the United States, we face a stark reality: we remain the only industrialized country in the world to lack paid family leave and universal healthcare. At the Bold Versus Old policy conference, Ai-jen Poo and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal discussed the gaps that exist in our healthcare, childcare, disability services, and elder care systems, proposing bold ideas to adequately address the long-standing health disparities that pervade throughout America.
Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, outlined a bold proposal for universal family care that subsidizes services for children, the elderly, and the disabled. She argued that the current costs of in-home care are enormous and getting larger, but at the same time, at-home care can be back-breakingly expensive. Unlike a siloed paid family leave plan or Medicare expansion, Poo wants to create a system that provides the care necessary at various stages of life, viewing our care needs along a continuum. Under Poo’s proposal, everyone would contribute to a fund for caregiving based on the idea that our nation’s young people and its wise, older adults enrich the common good into our future. As when Franklin Roosevelt fought for Social Security so that all Americans could retire with dignity, this plan takes care of past and present generations in an esteemed way, relieving the financial and emotional stress felt by middle and low-income Americans. Poo’s proposal streamlines several governmental services, including many within Medicare, in a way that adds value to the economy while allowing for more affordable, comprehensive care.
Medicare for all isn’t a new idea, but never before has it been so popularly expounded by our elected representatives. Universal healthcare now seems like a required credential for progressive members of congress and presidential candidates. At Bold Versus Old, we discussed the life-saving possibilities that exist if we “public-tize” our health and grant government greater ability to regulate cost-prohibitive elements of the healthcare industry, such as prescription drug prices.
Jayapal stated her case in a global context, pointing out America’s declining life expectancy and increasing, inequitable rate of infant and maternal mortality, unique and alarming trends among the world’s developed countries. Healthcare costs are still higher than any other developed nation, and 30 million Americans remain uninsured. Jayapal’s proposal is a full-scale medicare expansion, shifting healthcare back to being patient-driven and affordable. The plan proposes long-term coverage for older and aging Americans and ensures that the default for their care is at home, and not in collective facilities. In addition, the plan powerfully tackles our country’s healthcare market inefficiencies. It provides for a rapid transition from the Affordable Care Act-era public-private healthcare system to an entirely public system. But that doesn’t mean it’s all broad and sweeping plans; the details of Jayapal’s proposal far surpass the previous Medicare for All bill–the text of this version supersedes its predecessor by over 100 pages.
During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt's support for employer-provided health insurance established the inertia for privatized healthcare to dominate our policymaking space in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, there seems to be momentum for universal care and Medicare for All among our current politics. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a new universal child care plan, and Congresswoman Jayapal’s proposal have been introduced and boasts 106 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The way we achieve these policy changes remains unclear, but one thing is clear–these bold policy proposals aren’t going anywhere.
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