Jon Walker

Jon Walker writes about politics, health care, and drug policy. He is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the Future of Marijuana Policy.

Recent Articles

Sanders Is Trying to Have It Both Ways on Union Health Care

He claims that Medicare for All will be comprehensive with no duplicative insurance. But he promises unions that they can have something extra.

In an attempt to assuage union concerns about his Medicare for All plan, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders added a section to his new “ Workplace Democracy Plan .” The problem is that it is difficult to square this new talking point with his others on health care. From the plan: [T]he plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members . Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All. Either these are mostly meaningless promises without actual policy implications, intended to trick voters, or Sanders’s past statements about banning duplicate insurance don’t really hold up. Sanders’s Medicare for All bill is entirely comprehensive, fully covering everything. It is also meant to aggressively focus on equality by denying everyone, except the rich...

Are Voters Willing to Pay 18 Percent of GDP on Health Care?

The raw numbers behind the Medicare for All debate

agenda_2020.jpg One thing American health care does very well is hide what we actually pay for care, and most of the Democrats running for president actually want to keep it that way. The most important question in the Medicare for All debate is whether they have a point. The Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker created a useful tool to highlight this. It estimates that, for the typical single worker making $50,000, out-of-pocket care, premiums, and state and federal taxes for health care, combined with what their employer spends on premiums, totals $11,500. Even that underestimates the total figure, since it doesn’t count other types of insurance (homeowner, auto, workers’ compensation) whose premiums are higher than they would be due to medical liability. Still, the number represents over one-fifth of the median income, which shouldn’t be surprising, since nearly 18 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on health care. The double-edged sword for...

Joe Biden Wants to “Get Rid” of Half of Obamacare

By creating a public option for Medicaid expansion, Biden’s plan pushes over half of those who gained coverage through Obamacare into a new plan.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has taken a strange attack line against his rivals. He claims supporters of Medicare for All want to “get rid of Obamacare,” while he is “building on Obamacare.” Yet by his own logic, his plan would effectively “get rid” of over half of Obamacare. Biden’s newly released health-care plan is long on promises but relatively short on details, making a full analysis difficult. But the first big component of it is: All Americans will have a new, more affordable option.The public option, like Medicare, will negotiate prices with providers, providing a more affordable option for many Americans who today find their health insurance too expensive. Biden’s plan would also significantly increase subsidies for individuals buying insurance on their own, and let people with employer insurance get access to the subsidies, which Obamacare explicitly prohibits. Also, while promoting his plan Biden made a bold...

The Debate Over “Eliminating” Private Insurance Is Semantic Noise

Even the most far-left single-payer program out there preserves a role for private health insurance … sort of.

The first Democratic presidential debate showed how banning private health insurance in any future universal health-care plan has become a big symbolic flashpoint. During the two-night debate, only four of the 20 candidates raised their hands when asked if they would ban private health insurance, despite the fact that three of the non-raisers actually sponsored a bill, Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All Act, which would effectively do that. In addition, California Senator Kamala Harris, one of the four to agree on banning private health insurance in the debate, walked back her answer the next day, in what has become a months-long pattern of confusing responses from her on the question. This one provision has garnered a disproportionate amount of attention, due to conflicting political passions. The most dedicated single-payer activists, political leaders, and volunteers are attached to the idea as part of the strategy of making insurance companies the main villain in the...

The Cannabis Equity Con

Illinois wants to make sure its marijuana business benefits entrepreneurs of color. But that won’t be the kind of broad-based equity we need.

On June 25, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana . Governor J.B. Pritzker claims what really sets Illinois’s law apart is that it is the “most equity-centric” legalization law yet. According to Democratic state Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, this means that “the communities that have suffered through the war on drugs will now have an opportunity to enter a new market and be successful.” This vision of equity, though, is based on a deeply flawed understanding of what a mature legal marijuana market will look like. The law establishes a social equity applicant status for license applications. Applicants with this status, which include people from low-income communities and communities of color, will receive an advantage in the marijuana licensing process, and reduced fees. There will also be $30 million in low-interest loans available to defray startup costs for certain dispensaries. This vision of equity is based on the assumption that...