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Medicare For All

Sujannya Rathinam offers her thoughts on the Medical Care in America, in a detailed, masterfully researched piece.

Four months into the year alone, Americans had to borrow around $88 billion to pay for healthcare. 65 million adults claimed to have a health issue but chose to not seek treatment due to the high cost. Nearly a quarter had to cut back spending to afford medication or healthcare. About 67% of bankruptcy cases were tied to medical issues, exceeding that of unaffordable mortgages, student loans and spending excessively.

Now I believe that we’ve established that the undeniably complicated healthcare system, the status quo is severely broken, so let’s take a lot at why and how medicare for all will fix it.

America’s healthcare system can be best described as a hybrid, consisting of mainly the public and private sectors. The public sector consists of programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, which are specifically designed for the elderly and those in extreme poverty.

Where does this leave the rest of America?

To the private sector where you are either primarily funded by your employer or through self-insurance.

In 2017, it was found that 49% of Americans had private health insurance-funded through their employer, 35% through medicare and Medicaid ,1% in other public insurance,9% uninsured and 7% in non-group insurance. The uninsured, at that point of time, accounted for about 28 million people.

Can you get treatment without insurance?

Of course, you can but does that mean you will?

You can adopt a luxurious lifestyle, lavishly spending money on yachts and private jets but does your given financial circumstances allow you to? Access to healthcare doesn't mean a damn thing if you can’t afford it. Without insurance, the likelihood of an average American being able to afford healthcare is incredibly low. One common idea perpetuated about the uninsured is that they are lazy and indolent to find their own jobs.

Let’s understand something vital to this debate. If you were to leave your job for any kind of personal reasons, you would be uninsured until you find another job.

If you happen to have some sort of miscommunication with your insurance company and ended up uninsured for a period of time, you'll most likely end up in medical debt.

If you happen to have some sort of miscommunication with your insurance company and ended up uninsured for a period of time, you'll most likely end up in medical debt.

Combine these facts with the shrinking job market, and the growing number of jobs being threatened by automation, and suddenly you artart to see a very concerning pattern.

Here’s a radical idea: Even if you have an unemployed, you still should be able to receive medical treatment. If you have an unfavorable attribute, you should still be able to receive medical treatment without the threat of lifelong debt. It all comes back to one fundamental concept. Healthcare is a basic human right which everyone should have regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Now, this isn't just about the uninsured, but also the underinsured. Insurance companies have the incentive for profit, not for a healthy society. They want to bring in as much money as they can through premiums and pay as little as possible for Americans’ healthcare. That’s how the eight largest insurance companies made more than $7 billion during the third quarter of 2018 with United Healthcare alone raking in $3.3 billion in profits. This type of profit-driven healthcare does not work for the working class. It works for the corporate insurance companies and pharmaceutical industries.

And as the premiums (amount of money paid to the insurance company per month) continue to surge at an alarming rate, more and more americans find it difficult to afford insurance. Premium and deductible increases have exceeded that of wage growth.

The average annual premiums for individual coverage in 2019 is $7,188. That’s 4% increase since just 2018. At the same time, wages increased by 3.4% and inflation by 2%.

It’s no wonder why 66% of adults in the US cite health insurance as a key contributor to their stress. How do you expect Americans to seek treatment that they require if these insurance companies won’t keep their greed in check? Deductibles have increased by 212% from 2008

to 2018 but wages have not.

source: kff.org

Medicare For All. A policy that has been debated for quite a while now, with good reason, given the calamity that is the current system.

So, what is it?

It's a single-payer, government-run health care program in which all Americans are covered, regardless of their job or economic status. A few things it covers include

  • Hospital services

  • Ambulatory patient services

  • Prescription drugs

  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including inpatient care,

  • Laboratory and diagnostic services

  • Comprehensive reproductive, maternity, and newborn care

  • Pediatrics

Many people over the years have questioned the pragmatism of the bill and how it will be funded. Bernie Sanders proposed several options and ways to pay for it which include butare not limited to a wealth tax, on the 1%, a fee on large financial institutions, imposing a tax on currently held offshore profits, closing the "Gingrich-Edwards Loophole" etc.

One common argument against Medicare For All is that it would burden the middle class as it would increase their taxes. Although it will increase the taxes they pay to the government they would no longer have to pay premiums or deductibles to their private insurance companies, the same premiums and deductibles that have been outpacing the growth of wages. By completely eliminating private taxes while increasing public taxes with net savings of an average of $4400 per year, it isn’t a burden. It’s essentially a tax cut.

Democratic presidential candidates such as Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, Julian Castro have a more incremental approach where people can choose to opt into medicare or keep their private insurance. A lot of them bring about the idea of giving the people a choice but here’s my question to them-the choice to what exactly? The choice to get ripped off by an unnecessary and incessant corporate greed, that profits off America's lack of necessary healthcare?

The best thing about Medicare For All is that it provides universal coverage, regardless of your circumstances. It guarantees healthcare to every American and while the public option is better than the status quo, it simply does not have the same guarantee that Medicare For All ensures.

With a single-payer system, the federal government would have more power to negotiate with pharmaceutical industries for the exorbitant prices of prescription drugs. What’s the point in trying to maintain the structure in which insurance companies and their profits are preserved?

Furthermore, Medicare For All does not mean ALL private insurance will be abolished but that necessary healthcare needs will be taken care of by the government scheme while allowing supplemental coverage for nonessential needs (like cosmetic surgery).

The US spends twice as much as what other developed nations do on healthcare and yet has the worst outcomes (lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates), and it is clear that this system needs to change. Healthcare must be a matter of guarantee to every citizen, regardless of their backgrounds. Half measures are not a viable or acceptable solution to the catastrophic healthcare system that we know today. We not only need a guarantee but better coverage of mental health services, vision services, and dental care. Medicare For All is the way to go.