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Jealous has what it takes

Ben Jealous' opening statement from the 2018 gubernatorial debate.

I recently had an in-person chat with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous (at my public library after a campaign speech). He’s a big man, I’d say 6’5” and built like a retired line-backer, but he’s not intimidating or arrogant. Instead he comes across as humble (indeed, a bit nervous and nerdy), smart and driven. All, I think, good qualities in a chief executive — ready to listen, lead, and solve complicated problems.

I asked him about his health care plan. “You don’t really mean ‘single-payer universal coverage,’ do you?” “What about private insurers — they are powerful and entrenched?” His answer was unwavering. He said that he expected private coverage for certain aspects of the market to endure, but that his plan was now necessary to create affordable care for all Marylanders vis-à-vis a single-payer and thus a single-negotiator of prices for all services from hospital stays to prescription drugs. Mr. Jealous’ stance is both gutsy and justified because our health administrative costs are the highest in the world, our outcomes are among the worst, and we leave many un- or under-insured.

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Mr. Jealous’ plan also contrasts Gov. Larry Hogan’s more limited (in terms of covered lives and cost controls) approach, which is in any case mostly exhorted by the General Assembly. Even if Mr. Jealous cannot get “Medicare-for-all-Marylanders” passed — his efforts will certainly pressure all parties (citizens, providers, and insurers) to move toward more complete, efficient and affordable health care coverage options. Iconoclasts, after all, often times are luminaries.

Michael T. Abrams, Catonsville

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