The case for Medicare for all

Graphic by Maria Nevada

Grant Gaden

In Washington, the idea of universal healthcare seems to many like a far-off dream, but the reality is that 60 percent of Americans agree it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure every citizen has health care coverage. With 31 percent who support a “single-payer” system in which the government is the sole health insurer of the American public, essentially ending the health insurance industry, according to a 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center.

The “single payer” system is most like the policies of Democratic Nominee Candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Other notable candidates like Cory Booker, Kristen Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have said they support Medicare for all.

Kamala Harris’ communication team clarified after she announced she supported Medicare for all at a January CNN Town Hall, they’re open to many options, according to PBS News.

So far though, Sanders is the candidate with the clearest plan to change American health care. Currently in the U.S. House of Representatives a piece of legislation called the Medicare for All Act of 2019is being proposed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) which closely follows the plan Sanders has laid out.

Unfortunately, the bill has little chance of passing through the sitting congress even though Rep. Jayapal introduced the bill with 107 co-sponsors, as Democrats only have majority in the House while the Republicans control the senate. President Trump has said he would veto the bill if it reached his desk, according to Bloomberg News.

Nonetheless it’s an important idea that will be continued to be discussed throughout the race, as it could become a reality if a Democrat like Sanders or Warren was to beat Trump in 2020 and Democrats won enough seats to take the majority in the Senate as well.

In the proposed bill and Sander’s Medicare for All proposal we would transition in a matter of a few years from private health insurers to a Medicare program that would cover the entirety of health care costs for Americans, like the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom.

Many conservatives believe socialized health care is an unrealistic idea, but we have long had a successful socialized health care program in Medicare. As of right now though it’s only available to Americans 65 and older, in both plans they are proposing to make Medicare available to everyone regardless of age.

The arguments against the affordability are unfounded as Medicare is already an income tax. Everyone would pay a little more in their paychecks, but you wouldn’t have to pay a monthly premium to your insurance company or pay sometimes thousands of dollars to reach your deductible when you need to use it.

Alternatively, we could fund it through a reallocating money from our military spending budget of $610 billion, more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined according to Business Insider.

Other options being put forward to afford this could come through Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) Green New Deal plan. The current draft calls for the top marginal taxes rates to return to as much as 70 percent like they were before Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts for the wealthy in the 80s according to Vox.

Under our current system, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical expenses according to CNBC. Additionally, healthcare is fundamentally different from any other markets that would reward the companies that can provide a good product or service while keeping prices down, in the case of medical expenses, especially in emergencies, you don’t have time to compare prices between hospitals because receiving treatment could be time sensitive.

Our system may seem normal to us, although the reality is currently we are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t offer some form of universal health care for all its citizens. We pay by far the most, and that amount has been quickly increasing since the 80s, according to The Guardian.

In the proposed system the government would be the sole insurer of the American people. It would also be the sole negotiator with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies giving it the power to dramatically reduce the costs it is paying for surgeries, treatment or medicine if negotiated well.

Some within the Democratic house leadership, like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), aren’t looking for such dramatic change. But in a political reality where our president is declaring manufactured “emergencies” government funded health care really isn’t that far out there anymore.

Realistically the Democratic party needs to discuss policies that will improve voters lives and this idea of government funded healthcare has bi-partisan support as multiple historically conservative states including Utah and Nebraska passed a ballot initiative to expand state funded Medicaid in 2018.

Health care legislation has largely stayed the same in America because many members in congress are unaware of the reality that many low and middle-income families face regarding medical debts, sometimes due to no fault of their own. The idea that universal health care is an impossibility just shows the limited scope of the American political imagination, that immediately recoils at any thought of change even if it would benefit most people. If people want actual change in the way our healthcare system works now, we need to support candidates like Sanders with a real vision for Medicare for all in the coming 2020 election.