Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is unhappy about the state of American health care. In particular, he says the Obama administration and the Democrats who drafted and eventually passed the Affordable Care Act have set the table for an even worse system. And he’s no longer willing to play politics when it comes to reforming a dysfunctional system.
“Were this some private sector endeavor, we’d have long since begun moving on to something better designed and more efficient,” Bredesen writes in Fresh Medicine, his first book. “In the public sector, we dutifully trot out these half-century-old ideas like one of those Rambler Americans, fix a few dents, put on a coat of wax and pronounce them once again our solution.”
Fresh Medicine is at once an indictment of the current state of our health care system and a pointed plan for a new model that is, as he says, “uniquely American.”
What Bredesen calls the “Group Health Plan for America” is, at its core, a system in which all Americans are covered through a federally funded but privately executed system paid for — like Social Security — by a new, 20 percent income tax. He proposes “systems of care,” which would work to bring cottage industries together and provide more coordinated — and thus less costly — services (you don’t book a flight by contracting with a mechanic, a company that makes seats, a pilot and so on, he writes).
“In a way, people have recognized in this country for a long time that this approach we have of all these cottage industries that are working essentially independently has all sorts of problems,” he told The City Paper.
Some might balk at the 20 percent payroll tax, but Bredesen says it’s less than what the typical American family pays now, and it sets up future generations against insolvency.
Bredesen said his administration’s cuts to the TennCare program led him to evangelize for a simpler system.
“I ended up with this very discouraged view of Medicaid and the way it’s going to adapt,” he said. “Let’s just take a much simpler system, and one that applies to everybody for some base-level care. That’s just better for everybody.”