Connecticut must lead the way on universal healthcare

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Affordable, quality health care can’t become a luxury: it’s a fundamental need, and access to it must become a fundamental right. Creating a single-payer system is the most effective way to guarantee access to healthcare for every person.

For the last six months, Republicans in Washington have pushed legislation that would strip coverage from tens of millions of Americans. Last week, their attempts failed, and for today, the Affordable Care Act remains intact.

We’ve seen tremendous gains in health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act. In 2013, 41 million people were uninsured. As of 2015, that number had decreased to 28 million. Today, prescription drug costs are lower. Medicaid coverage extends to nearly all adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the poverty line. We’re making strides, but it isn’t enough. Tens of millions of Americans, including more than 200,000 Connecticut residents, live every day without health coverage.

Our healthcare system is laden with chronic problems. The United States has the highest per-person health care costs in the world, with some of the worst outcomes. Too many of our people are uninsured and under-insured. And our political class constantly attacks preventative care, cost controls, basic standards of coverage, women’s health care, and protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Importantly, a single-payer system would foster economic growth for our state. Our system too often ties health insurance to employers, stifling entrepreneurs and innovators who are otherwise ready to build new companies. Similarly, high premiums make small businesses too expensive to operate. Promoting job mobility, entrepreneurship, and small business development should be at the center of our pro-growth strategy in Connecticut, and a single-payer system can help us get there.

Our businesses spend a fortune on employee insurance, with costs skyrocketing year after year. But these higher costs aren’t buying us better coverage. They’re paying for insurance companies’ lobbying, marketing, and executive compensation costs.

The assault on healthcare is far from over. We have a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do, starting right here in Connecticut. We can’t fix Connecticut without guaranteeing health care for our people. Our workers deserve it, our companies deserve it, and our state needs it.

It’s time for Congress to advance a public healthcare system that provides every American — and all 3.6 million Connecticut residents — with affordable, quality healthcare. If Congress refuses to do it in Washington, it’s up to us to do it here in Connecticut.

Mayor Dan Drew is a candidate for governor of Connecticut. He lives in Middletown with his wife Kate, and their four children. 

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