Think 'Medicare for All' is a good idea? Fly to LAX and call an Uber

Think 'Medicare for All' is a good idea? Fly to LAX and call an Uber
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Here’s a modest proposal for anyone who believes “Medicare for All” is a good idea: Fly into Los Angeles right now and try to get an Uber.

What used to be a messy process that sometimes required a wait of 20 minutes at Los Angeles International  (LAX) is now a scene of complete chaos, with literally hundreds of passengers stranded in a parking lot while underpaid ride-share drivers struggle in gridlock so severe it takes an hour to drive the final half-mile into the airport.

Government officials are stunned because, honestly, they had a plan for that. And it was flawless.

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This Armageddon was brought on by the airport’s need to reduce traffic so construction could begin on a new elevated tram that would circle the airport. It will relieve congestion when it opens sometime in 2023. Maybe.

Officials created new lanes for special shuttles that would take Uber and Lyft passengers to a parking lot outside the airport, where they could all join together in texting for drivers, then waiting for them to arrive. All other traffic in the airport would get squeezed into fewer lanes, and legions of ride-share cars would somehow fit into one parking area. 

Quick fact check: LAX is the nation’s second busiest airport, serving 84.5 million passengers a year.

The area’s leading news outlet, the Los Angeles Times, thought this was a great idea. A Times editorial admitted the strategy has caused “consternation” among passengers who have called it “the worst plan ever devised.” But the newspaper — often a supporter of civic organizations which have a plan for that — discounted this skepticism, convinced the ride-share scheme will “make it easier for people arriving at LAX.”

I flew back home into LAX from Austin on the third day of this new plan — and I could smell the panic. Crowds of people bundled together outside the terminal, waiting as one jam-packed shuttle after another whizzed by without stopping. A woman in a yellow vest and an official-looking cap tried nervously to keep everyone else calm as she scanned the horizon for some form of transportation that might help out. My wife looked at me, dread filling her eyes. I quickly took out my phone and called our daughter to come pick us up. 

Given the history that Los Angeles officials have of not quite getting things right the first time, one would imagine somebody saw this disaster coming. 

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Someone did. 

Executives at Uber sounded the alarm as soon as they saw the traffic plan. The pickup area, they said, wasn’t big enough to accommodate all their cars. Traffic jams and wait times would skyrocket, they warned.

But airport officials brushed off these concerns. After all, they had a plan. The plan had been run through computer models, road-tested no doubt with some virtual reality software that accounted for every possibility. They were confident, even a bit smug. Uber and Lyft may think of themselves as top-level experts in moving cars around. But no need to worry: We. Know. Better.

Well, now, guess what? LAX is enlarging the size of the parking lot, making adjustments to its shuttle schedules, and crossing its collective fingers that this will all work itself out before the arrival of the passenger deluge commonly known as Thanksgiving. No one is betting it will.

And this, remember, simply involves getting out of an airport. There are no life-and-death issues here, no one’s health is in danger, no loved ones are left clueless and hopeless. This is not Medicare for All. Except for one thing: The mindset is the same.

Medicare For All proponents have their plans, too. They have computer models and forecasts. In that bubble of theories and assumptions, there is certainty. People who don’t believe just don’t understand: We. Know. Better. 

Vast majorities of voters agree the health care system needs to get better. Small steps toward that goal allow for human error and the way real life runs roughshod over the best-laid plans.  

The people who know better, who say small steps equal surrender, just need to fly out to L.A. 

Call me. I’ll come pick you up.

Joe Ferullo is an award-winning media executive, producer and journalist and former executive vice president of programming for CBS Television Distribution. He was a news executive for NBC, a writer-producer for “Dateline NBC,” and worked for ABC News. Follow him on Twitter @ironworker1.