Opinion

The notion that the United States of America is the best country on Earth is an idea that has become pretty salient, especially within the country itself. However, studies of industrialized countries reveal that the U.S. ranks consistently low on health-care-related measures.

For example, 1 in 4 Americans report postponing or skipping a healthcare appointment because they can’t afford it.

Out of sixteen nations, the U.S. ranks last for preventing deaths that could be remedied with medical services. According to the National Academy for Sciences, the U.S. ranks at or near the bottom on almost every measure of life expectancy.

The worst part is this: The U.S. spends about $10,000 per citizen on healthcare while the Canadians and Germans spend half that with better healthcare outcomes. My sense of patriotism is shook.

What is the common link between the countries that are getting gold medals in healthcare? Progressive politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) have known for years; nearly all of them have single-payer insurance or something similar. The U.S. should follow suit.

According to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, single-payer would save us 20 percent on healthcare costs, and could eliminate nearly 500 billion in administrative waste.  

Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan would be phased in over the course of four years, and it would transition the U.S. into a single-payer plan. As of right now, there are many payers involved with our healthcare system such as insurance companies, the federal government, and the states themselves. Medicare-for-All would mean that, singularly, the government spends a lot more on healthcare, but overall the healthcare costs will remain about the same.

Citizens would no longer need to pay for premiums or deductibles anymore, and the plan could be financed through a 7.5 percent income-based premium percent tax on employers. No need to worry, though, because this would actually save employers about $9,000 per employee, and a business’ first $2 million would be exempt from the tax, benefitting small businesses across the country.

In other words, every American could be completely covered for all of their medical services at no additional cost. No one would be uninsured under Sanders Medicare for All plan.

Medicare-for-all would give the federal government the bargaining power to renegotiate the costs of pharmaceuticals and healthcare services, driving down costs dramatically. In addition, America’s healthcare outcomes would radically improve just by virtue of people being able to go to the doctor when they get sick rather than waiting until it is an expensive health emergency.

However, it is absolutely valid to say that Medicare-for-All will negatively affect the American insurance industry. Nearly half a million jobs could be lost, and proponents of Medicare-for-All shouldn’t shy away from this unfortunate reality. It is undoubtedly unfortunate that people will lose their jobs, but the bill also has provisions for this transitory period.

Sanders’ bill actually includes plans to help the insurance industry transition into parallel industries. Factory laborers in the early 20th century didn’t even get that when the automobile was invented and farriers and wainwrights lost their place in the American job market, but it still made more sense to transition to the most effective method of transport. The same logic applies when it comes to the topic of healthcare.

Thinking of those workers is important, but realizing the broader implications of transitioning to a new  healthcare system, as well as the costs of not doing so, is essential. Leveraging medical services and insurmountable debt is not a just society for poor citizens.

Healthcare is not an iPhone or a an expensive handbag and can no longer be treated as something Americans must work to afford and save up for. After all, people cannot choose how healthy they are or how much money they have.

In the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the founders notoriously guarantee each citizen the right to, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” How is one supposed to pursue happiness if they’re unable to receive care for their chronic illness without going into medical debt? How is one supposed to live if they can’t get life-saving medication or healthcare services?

Our constitutional liberties are being disserviced by perpetuating the unfair healthcare system we haven’t gotten the courage to change. Even if the founders didn’t have a policy like Medicare for All specifically in mind when they wrote the constitution, now that the infrastructure for a better system is available, it is up to this generation to make it a reality.

 

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