Why America Needs Medicare For All Now
Americans are sick and tired of having to fork over loads of money to paying for their own well being. It’s time for some change.
Jamie is a pretty ordinary American. She was a college student and is now 27 years old but makes only about $20,000 a year. She doesn’t have any health insurance and that has had a large impact on her life. The last time Jaime met with a doctor was a junior in high school. Because of her rent and student loans “healthcare just hasn’t been high enough priority” and “If something bad happened to me… if I were in an accident or if I developed some kind of serious illness, there’s no possible way I could afford it.” (Healthcare.gov)
In modern America, Jamie’s experience is not unusual. She and another 12.2% of Americans are in that grey area where they don’t qualify for government subsidies but can’t afford their own insurance (Gallup).
Historically in America, universal health care has been a “socialist” policy written off by most Americans. Thanks to the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, Medicare for All has taken a spotlight in American progressive politics. Medicare for All is a policy that would allow all citizens to buy into Medicare or a government funded public health insurance plan. The plan would be funded by a healthcare tax program which would give every citizen government funded healthcare. Medicare for All has grown with many liberals and its popularity throughout the country is growing. Many people now feel the need to join every other developed country in the world in guaranteeing healthcare as a right.
A recent poll from August 2018, has shown that 70% of all Americans support Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Bill (Reuters). While Americans on average spend far more on healthcare than most citizens in other developed countries, Americans experience a falling life expectancy and higher rates of bankruptcy due to the expense of necessary care.
Even after implementation of the Affordable Care Act, approximately 62.1% of bankruptcies had a medical cause (American Journal of Medicine). It is not uncommon for people to lose their property, retirement, and future while trying to pay their sky high medical bills. Not only that, but a system which provides healthcare for every American is still cheaper than our current system. A conservative study projected that Medicare for All would cost the government $32.6 trillion (Mercatus). That may sound expensive, but overall it is projected that the $32.6 trillion dollars projected by the Mercatus Center would still be $2 trillion cheaper than our current private system over the next 10 years (Thinkprogress). You may be asking: if this system is universal and saves people so much money, why hasn’t it already replaced our existing privatized system?
Throughout our country’s history the size and limits of the government’s power have been a topic of hot debate. Very few presidents have ever considered the idea of a single payer healthcare system. The origin of the single payer healthcare debate dates back to the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Roosevelt and Truman were dealing with an economic crisis due to the Great Depression and World War II, two of the greatest crises this country had ever seen.
This prompted Roosevelt and Truman to propose socialized medicine which became part of the 1949 Fair Deal. Roosevelt and Truman planted the idea in the minds of Americans.
Since then President Lyndon Johnson created Medicare and Medicaid for people over 65 and people who do not make enough money to pay for insurance.
President Jimmy Carter campaigned on socialized health care but did not take it further. Throughout the history of the United States, the concept of one central healthcare system has been hobbled by the scarcity of support in our government. This can be attributed to the fact that not many people truly understand what “single payer healthcare” or “Medicare for All” truly mean. A lot of times opponents to single payer refer to Medicare for All as “socialized health care” or “a socialist policy” due to the fact that overall socialism is viewed as a very negative ideology in America by both Democrats and Republicans. This has lead over time to a lack of support for needed policy change. It is time American leaders recognize healthcare as a right.
To look at an example of a successful universal Medicare system, you can look at Canada’s Medicare system. This is a system in which people like Jamie doesn’t get lost without coverage. In Canada’s system the average person pays about $5,789 per year. All necessary health services are provided by the government. In America it is approximately $18,764 (NCSL). A popular conservative counter-argument would be extra money goes to funding important medical research and cutting edge biotechnology. Americans to pay more than most other developed nations, but the American life expectancy is overall lower (see below).
American pay more and have fewer hospital beds per capita and a quality of care fueled by money not by the need for treatment. This is not part of playing the game of politics or playing the game of conservative or liberal. America’s middle class and poor need this legislation now to promote their well-being and their pursuit of happiness as promised in the Declaration of Independence. This is long overdue.
In Canada, although healthcare is funded privately, doctors all run privately contrary to other systems where doctors are all employees of the central government health system for example, Sweden or Britain. Not all services are covered though, only those deemed necessary (like check-ups, hospital visits, dental, vision, limited prescriptions, etc.) some Canadians pay for private insurance to reduce cost of services not covered by the government. The Canadian system is not without its flaws though. Since the government facilitates all care, the waitlist for surgeries and other critical procedures is on average 21 weeks long which may lead to people paying for the procedure and traveling to America to have it performed. This is due to a few major flaws in the Canadian system. In Canada, there is only one physician for every 1,000 Canadians, this lack of doctors leads to inadequate staff to treat the patients. Sometimes the wait is waived for critical patients but if you want an elective procedure performed, you have to be prepared to wait. For America, this problem would already be partially solved. We have approximately 2.6 physicians for every 1,000 citizens which could greatly decrease the wait that Canadians currently experience (AIMS Education).
The other way to ensure that patients in critical condition can be seen is a streamlined process for people that need immediate attention. Canada’s process is still slow and bureaucratic for people with need for live saving care and this process could be cleared up and improved in an American system.
The country took a step closer to Medicare for All when in 2010 the Congress passed the “Affordable Care Act” also known as “Obamacare”. This gave people like Jamie hope, but it was a half measure at best.
Although in 2010 the Democrats had a majority in the House, the Senate, and held the presidency, the initial hopes and strength of the bill were toned down to allow conservative Democrats to agree to the legislation. This allowed the government to control the costs of health insurance a little bit better. It also mandated citizens to have insurance. The key clause of the “Affordable Care Act” was that it forced insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, something that was not covered before. One of the key parts of the bill, an option to buy into a publicly funded insurance plan was taken out so that the it would pass. It has since forced people to buy private health insurance they often cannot afford. Even after all of these improvements, the anti-Obamacare rhetoric quickly started. Over the next 6 years many Republicans spoke about how unfair Obamacare was and how they could do far better. They just needed a Republican in the White House to help them repeal it. This lead to the 2016 Congress, when with help from newly elected President Donald Trump, attempts were made to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The plan the Republicans had come up with was “The American Health Care Bill of 2017” which would have made the situation even worse. Many estimates say the Republican plan would have left 25 million more Americans uninsured (PBS). This legislation failed and the United States still has much of the same “Affordable Care Act” from 2010. The biggest shortfall of the “Affordable Care Act” is that it did not guarantee healthcare as a right. It forced people to pay for expensive private insurance without any aid unless you fall into categories that qualify for the smallest amounts of help from the current Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Now more than ever there is an opportunity to pass this critical piece of legislation. There are new groups of representatives in congress dedicated to this policy. For example, the Justice Democrats are a group of seven members of the House of Representatives who are dedicated to progressive policies including making healthcare a right and passing universal healthcare legislation.
Not only are these members dedicated to this legislation, they are part of two-thirds of the House Democrats who support Medicare for All. The bill in the senate that was referenced before, Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All Bill” has support from 16 other Democratic senators. This legislation has the overwhelming majority people’s support. This is the time to act with more and more of the people struggling to pay for healthcare that would ensure their own well being. Bernie Sanders put it this way, “Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program.” Now more than ever our country is moving backwards on the key issue of healthcare while the rest of the world moves forwards. Simple comprehensive legislation could easily heal the deep wounds healthcare costs have caused in America for decades.
Healthcare in the future could be very different from today in America. Healthcare could be a given right in this country like almost every other developed country in the world. All insurance would be provided through the Medicare program by the government and would apply to everyone, not just those over a certain age or under a certain income. It will be an America where people like Jamie don’t have to compromise their well-being to protect their wallet. No more conservative talk like “Well, it’s a free market, if you want healthcare go out and buy it”.
In the Declaration of Independence, all Americans were guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To obtain all three of those promises given by our Founding Fathers we must allow every citizen of our great country to receive the healthcare they need by passing Medicare for All and establishing healthcare as a right.
AIMS Education. “US vs Canadian Healthcare: What Are the Differences?” AIMS EDUCATION, 29 Mar. 2018, www.aimseducation.edu/blog/us-vs-canadian-healthcare-differences/.
Cauchi, Dick, and Alise Garcia. NCSL, NCSL, www.ncsl.org/research/health/health-insurance-premiums.aspx.
“Cost of Medicare for All.” Mercatus, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, www.mercatus.org/system/files/blahous-costs-medicare-mercatus-working-paper-v1_1.pdf .
Gallup, Inc. “Healthcare System.” Gallup.com, 2018, news.gallup.com/poll/4708/healthcare-system.aspx.
“Jaime’s Story: Life without Health Insurance.” HealthCare.gov, www.healthcare.gov/blog/jaime-s-story-life-without-health-insurance/.
“Koch-Backed Study Finds ‘Medicare for All’ Would Save U.S. Trillions.” ThinkProgress, ThinkProgress, thinkprogress.org/mercatis-medicare-for-all-study-0a8681353316/.
PBS. “How Would the American Health Care Act Affect Cost and Access?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 8 Mar. 2017, www.pbs.org/newshour/show/american-health-care-act-affect-cost-access.
Reports, Special. “Progressive Movement Stirs Democrats.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 23 Aug. 2018, www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-election-progressives/.
“Under ACA, Medical Bankruptcy Continues.” American Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Medicine, amjmed.org/under-aca-medical-bankruptcy-continues/.