Medicare for All is the Right Solution to America’s Healthcare Crisis

Polis: Center for Politics
4 min readMay 29, 2024

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Brett Hammerman (PPS ‘25)

Brett Hammerman (PPS ‘25)

Canvassing through Staten Island in the summer of 2019 for then-Democratic congressman Max Rose, I knocked on the door of a woman named Diane. The conversation began as usual: “Hi, nice to meet you — I am representing Congressman Max Rose, and I would get thoughts on the upcoming election, Rose’s time in office, and any concerns you would like Congressman Rose to address.” She immediately told me about her struggle to access healthcare for her kid, who has a disability. Then, with emotion and passion, she proclaimed: “If you could tell Congressman Rose to work on a healthcare bill that supports healthcare for all, that would truly save lives, including that of my child.” I walked away from that conversation, disgusted with our system that lets people die because they can’t afford healthcare.

The United States Congress should pass the Medicare for All Act to increase access to healthcare. It is outrageous that in a country that prides itself on freedom and rights, a large portion of the American population, including the woman I met in Staten Island, cannot exercise what I believe is their fundamental right to healthcare. Every American should not have to decline or avoid medical treatment because they can’t afford it.

More than 31.6% of Americans lack access to adequate health insurance, according to the CDC. The statistic is staggering, and the disturbing trend of reaching new historic lows in uninsured Americans every year. In addition, 43% of working-age adults are inadequately insured, meaning that even those with some form of insurance are considered underinsured. For these individuals, their high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses make it difficult to afford medical bills. These burdensome costs hurt their standard of living due to the amount of income going towards healthcare, which leads some people to avoid or skip care altogether because their plans are simply cost-prohibitive.

The consequences of high uninsurance prove dire. Thirteen percent of Americans know someone who died because of the cost of treatment and lack of insurance coverage, and a Harvard Medical study concluded that 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack adequate insurance. The study does not even include the deaths of the underinsured. People are dying without healthcare at an alarming rate, and Medicare for all is the best solution to the problem.

But what is Medicare for All?

Medicare for All would be a government-controlled healthcare program that grants coverage to every citizen “and which replaces almost all other existing public and private plans.” Under Medicare for All, people would not have to pay premiums or deductibles to receive the necessary care. In addition, it would “expand the categories of benefits under the current Medicare system to include areas such as dental and vision coverage, as well as long-term care.”

The primary argument against Medicare for All is that it would be too costly to implement. However, Donald Berwick, former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, explains that “The truth is the opposite: Medicare for All would sharply reduce overall spending on health care. It can be thoughtfully designed to reduce total costs for the vast majority of American families while improving the quality of the care they get.” Thus, enacting Medicare for All would reduce costs for citizens.

In addition to cutting healthcare costs, Medicare for All saves lives. A National Library of Medicine study found that Medicare for All would save 68,000 lives annually. A Scientific American study also found that Medicare for All could have saved over 330,000 lives during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic if every American had access to affordable healthcare. Medicare for All would also make prescription medications more affordable, solving the 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations a year caused by patients not taking their prescribed medication because of the high cost.

At the end of the day, Medicare for All would do what it intends to: expand access to healthcare. Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders announced this week that the legislation lacks the support it needs. That is why we must exercise our voting power in the democratic process. With a less divided Congress and representatives committed to achieving equity and granting every American access to healthcare, Medicare for All would have a chance of passing. It is up to us to ensure that every person, like Diane and her son, can live without fearing death because of healthcare costs.

Brett Hammerman is from New York and an Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ‘23 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.

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