Serving on the Phoenix City Council has taught both of us that when it comes to making Phoenix residents’ day-to-day life better, we must work together. We may not align on everything politically, but that does not matter to someone who is looking to the council to fix the potholes on their street or keep their neighborhood safe. Phoenicians are looking for problem-solving, not partisan back-and-forth. That is why we both believe that when it comes to ensuring quality health care at a reasonable cost, it will take leaders on the federal level to work together. We absolutely need to improve health care access, quality, and affordability. However, one-size-fits-all health care proposals like Medicare for All or the public option will not deliver those results.
In fact, a government-controlled health care insurance system like the public option could threaten health care access for those who need it most while increasing costs and undermining the quality of care. Rather than going down that road, lawmakers should look for ways they can strengthen the Affordable Care Act so that it works for everybody.
The costs associated with a program like the public option would be astronomical. According to some projections, a public option could cost in the tens of trillions of dollars and could mean a payroll tax increase of more than $2,000 for the average American worker. So many Arizona families are already struggling in light of the recent economic downturn; piling on new financial burdens could be devastating.
On top of that, a top-down health care system could mean massive cuts to physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers. One recent report found that, under our current economic environment, these cuts could increase financial losses at hospitals serving rural and underserved communities by up to 40 percent.
If that were to happen, it could threaten the quality of care while putting many of our more at-risk hospitals and health care facilities out of business for good. For rural communities, that could endanger already limited access while weakening local economies and killing local jobs.
We need to find a way to work together, Republicans and Democrats alike, to strengthen our current health care system—not try to build an inferior one from the ground up.
Thelda Williams is the former three-time Mayor of Phoenix and currently serves as Phoenix City Councilwoman representing District 1. Michael Johnson served three consecutive terms on the Phoenix City Council from 2002 to 2013 representing District 8 and is a prostate cancer survivor.