The idea of universal health care and care reform in general gets thrown around a lot, especially with the upcoming, historic election getting closer. I’m writing a series of two articles to try and shed light on the issue. One will make the case for Medicare for All, that and the other will talk about some reasons we should think twice. Below is the pro side, and the con side will be released soon.
America needs Medicare for All (M4A). I know that statement makes some of you want to stand up and give a scathing speech on the evils of the radical left and socialism. But before you do, ask yourself this question: how many first world countries don’t have universal healthcare or something very close to it? The answer is just one, and that country is America. Not such a crazy idea anymore, right? It seems like on a global scale, it’s a radical stance to be against Medicare for All. But regardless of which side you think is more outlandish, I hope that statistic was eye opening enough that you’re willing to read on and hear the case for Medicare for All and responses to some common counter arguments.
‘F’ Level Care
The simple fact is the healthcare system in America is failing. Sure, it’s a nice idea to have the government provide coverage only to those who need it, but in practice that just does not work because people who need help always slip through the cracks. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s data, if our current system were a high school student, it would quite literally receive an ‘F’ because it adequately covers only sixty-seven percent of the population.
The remaining one hundred thirteen million people are all either uninsured, meaning they receive no care, or underinsured, meaning their insurance doesn’t entirely cover the care they need. But unlike the occasional ‘F’ on a test, this one is truly a matter of life or death: the Harvard Department of Health and Medicine wrote that the uninsured have a forty percent higher mortality rate than the insured, and forty-five thousand people die each year due to a lack of insurance.
But how does a single payer system solve these problems? It’s rather simple. Under a single payer system, everyone, by law, is insured by the government. It’s in Section 102 of the Medicare for All Act that Bernie Sanders proposed. Now that we’ve established that M4A would save forty-five thousand lives every year, let’s talk about some of the things people bring up when arguing against it.
We can’t pay for it
Don’t worry, we have the money
The first and most frequent point brought up by naysayers is cost. Indeed, anyone who watched the Democratic debates this winter will recall that the line “How will we pay for it?” was a go-to for ‘moderate’ candidates (remember, they’re not that moderate when you look at the world holistically.) The problem with this line of argumentation is that the numbers thrown around about the cost of the program are wildly inaccurate. The most common figure used is that M4A costs about thirty-three trillion dollars to fully fund. However, two things make this a terrible statistic: first, it looks at the cost over ten years, and second, it doesn’t take into account savings for the government that would come from cutting medicare and medicaid.
After adding up these two factors, the PERI Institute calculated that the average annual cost is only a trillion dollars. This sum could easily be covered by several different methods, such as taxing the income people and businesses currently spend on healthcare, a wealth tax, or a carbon tax. Worst case scenario, the government can just go into debt to fund M4A. Keep in mind that we went two trillion dollars into debt for the Coronavirus relief package and saw no negative impacts on the economy.
The care will be low quality
Another counterargument is that single payer healthcare leads to a decline in quality of care because of increased wait times from an overtaxed system and doctor shortages due to lower pay. But once again, this position does not stand up to close scrutiny. In fact, the Center for American Progress explains that single payer countries empirically have lower wait times and more doctors than the United States.
Wait times are not a problem in other, comparable nations because they are able to give everyone access to preventative care which drastically reduces emergency room visits. Preventative care also streamlines the whole medical process by making the entire population healthier. Similarly, when countries are able to unilaterally dictate the compensation doctors receive, they never end up actually setting the wages at a point where doctors quit their jobs. That’s why shortages aren’t a problem anywhere in Europe.
To sum up…
We have a healthcare crisis in America.
113 million people don’t get the care they need
45 thousand people die every year because they aren’t insured
M4A won’t bankrupt the government
M4A won’t hurt the caliber of care
The answer to our nation’s plight is Medicare for All.