Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous wants to establish single-payer healthcare in Maryland, a plan that would make government pay residents' medical care and get rid of the out-of-pocket expenses that residents pay.
In a 19-page proposal that echoes U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' national plan for the government to cover everyone's health insurance through Medicare, Jealous said a state-run, single-payer system would be the next logical step for a state like Maryland, which has an all-payer system, but he offered no specific details on how the government would cover the cost of the ambitious plan.
A similar plan was debated, but later shelved, in California this year.
"We're in a better position than any other state; we're more than half way there," Jealous said noting the all-payer system and hospital waiver that are currently in place in Maryland. "We believe it's attainable. It just comes down to getting the stakeholders around the table."
Jealous said the state has saved more than $400 million under its all-payer system and a move toward single-payer would only lead to greater cost savings, money that could help pay for the program. He also did not rule out an increase in sales or income taxes to pay for the universal coverage.
"The key factor is this will save us money," Jealous said. "We'll get a better deal from big Pharma. . . And we are talking about a savings for most employers and most people."
Jealous' plan is more progressive than his opponents vying for the Democratic nomination.
State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross have each called for a state-run public option, under which the state would set up a health program to compete with private insurance rather than the state providing the coverage.
Attorney Jim Shea said he prefers a federal single-payer system. In Maryland, he said the state "should look for ways to improve quality and control costs through preventative care initiatives within the current all-payer system."
Jealous said he doesn't support a public option because, he said, research has found that it "won't do much."
Sanders will join Jealous in Baltimore on Wednesday night at a rally to promote Md-Care, Jealous' healthcare proposal, and his own national healthcare plan.