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Noah Smith

The Best Prescription for Growth? National Health Care.

A big idea seems to have fallen by the wayside but could make all the difference as America moves beyond the pandemic.

For everyday Americans, health care is still a very pressing matter.

For everyday Americans, health care is still a very pressing matter.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

With policy shifting away from Covid relief toward more long-term goals such as shoring up infrastructure and promoting competition, U.S. lawmakers have a rare opportunity to address the American economy’s deep structural issues. And because the pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to businesses, workers in danger of displacement want some sort of reassurance that their lives won’t be upended. Now is therefore the perfect time to revisit a big idea that seems to have fallen by the wayside: national health insurance.

The dream of national health insurance seems to have died with the end of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Though some socialists may still forlornly talk of “Medicare for All,” the truth is that Sanders’s expansive plan, with its lavish benefits and effective ban on private health insurance, was never going to make it through Congress even had he won. Politicians seem to be content to patch up the Obamacare system and move on to what they feel are more pressing matters.