I have some of the best healthcare currently available because a union’s collective bargaining agreement guaranteed a defined benefit pension plan including health insurance. Defined benefit plans provide retirement based on a percentage of income earned during working years and age of retirement. Your pension continues for your life time. However, a 2015 Supreme Court decision threatens healthcare benefits under collective bargaining by stating that retiree health benefits are not necessarily benefits vested for life. Companies are changing pension plans “… more responsibility and risk is being shifted to employees,” said Alan Glickstein, a senior Willis Towers Watson retirement consultant. Private employers also have been reducing or terminating their retiree health plans.
Everyone’s healthcare coverage is tied to insurance and the pharmaceutical companies. Public sector premiums are increasing leaving retirees on fixed incomes vulnerable when aging may bring more health issues with higher medical costs. Future out-of-pocket health care expenditures have been estimated to take up to a third of retiree income.
Single payer would be the most efficient system for everyone’s healthcare. The significant difference between a single payer healthcare plan and AHCA, ACA, or proposals from Republicans is the stranglehold of insurance companies. Single payer healthcare is not managed by private insurance corporations: it is a publicly-financed and publicly-administered program. A system also with power to negotiate drug prices resulting in savings. The Congressional Budget Office estimated savings between 2014–2023 would be about $121 billion if drug manufacturers were required to provide rebates for prescriptions to low-income Medicare beneficiaries.
Single payer healthcare allows a choice of any doctor − no co-pays, deductibles, or barriers like pre-existing conditions − with coverage for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.
People do not want a “repair or replace” of the disastrous health bill passed by the House of Representatives. A vote of 217–213 is no mandate. A recent Pew report combining Gallup data going back to 2000 with a new survey found that 60% of Americans say, “the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all.” Around the globe — except in the U.S.− thirty-two of the thirty-three developed nations have systems providing their people with free or affordable healthcare. Time to make healthcare for all a reality.
A Single payer healthcare system is economically viable. Replacing the multitude of insurers and different private health plans could guarantee coverage for currently uninsured and upgrade coverage of everyone else. A BioMed Central research on billing and insurance-related administrative costs alone concluded that a “simplified financing system in the U.S. could result in cost savings exceeding $350 billion annually, nearly 15% of health care spending.”
The majority of people want government to ensure healthcare, and increasingly, doctors favor a single-payer healthcare system. Medicare, providing healthcare to 57 million seniors and people with disabilities, offers an immediate solution for the current healthcare quagmire by expanding coverage to all ages with the passage of Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act H.R. 676.
Congress must abandon AHCA and muster the political will to move us forward with the same quality healthcare for everyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, health conditions, income, employment status, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege.
Patricia Jackson, retiree, community activist and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project