In one of the most divisive times in American history, there are few things on which we can agree. One of those rare issues is the idea that the current healthcare system in the United States is broken. We spend more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world. Despite paying nearly twice the average among developed countries for healthcare, Americans’ quality of care is depressingly average. Furthermore, in a poll done by Gallup, among all voters, 80% rated healthcare as extremely or very important in deciding their vote, more than any other issue. Another poll showed that 36%, a plurality, said it was their “top issue.” Not only does healthcare have significant economic and quality of life ramifications for Americans, it is the defining political issue of the 2020 Presidential Race and perhaps this generation.
Before beginning any conversation regarding the numerous healthcare proposals in this country, we must agree to a single baseline: healthcare is a human right. Just as water is needed to survive, quality, affordable healthcare is needed for life, and is therefore, as the founders put it, an “inalienable right.” Now, understandings of what that means in practice vary, obviously. One can argue that a purely private system most efficiently provides Americans affordable healthcare. Another person may contend that a public option competing with private insurance plans is a perfect compromise. I hope to effectively argue my view that Medicare for All is the best way forward.
Unfortunately, we currently suffer in a system where the idea of healthcare as a human right is antithetical to its very nature. The elimination of private health insurance is possibly the most controversial aspect of the Medicare for All bill, but the removal of profit motive from healthcare is principal to progress. Firstly, while Medicare for All does largely eliminate private health insurance, it allows for supplemental coverage by the private sector for conditions not covered in the expansive bill. Specifically, the bill states that it is illegal for “a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act.” This supplemental system mirrors the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, and would significantly reduce costs for most citizens while leaving the door open for luxury care. And while that aspect is still misunderstood among Americans and polls poorly, what that data reflects is not an affection for premiums, out of pocket costs, or astronomical drug prices. It is an affinity for the care they are able to scrape out of a broken system, not for the system itself.
The costs of fixing that system are not inconsequential, and while the writers of the Medicare for All bill have specified numerous progressive approaches to funding it, raising taxes on some middle-class Americans will inevitably be a part of it. And while the price tag of $30 trillion over ten years is initially staggering, if we do nothing and maintain our current patchwork system, it will cost $49 trillion over the same time frame. This is due to administrative costs that come from the smorgasbord of private and public healthcare options, and Medicare for All is the only proposal that attacks those problems directly. Again, taxes will go up on middle-class Americans, but net costs will plummet for them, and for all Americans.
When President Lyndon Johnson first signed Medicare into law in the 1960s, Ronald Reagan decried it as “socialized medicine.” Recently, President Trump signed an executive order allegedly defending Medicare, now one of the most popular federal programs. The Executive Order wasentitled “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction.” Trump and his campaign have worked tirelessly to position the 2020 race as a referendum on socialism. Red-scare era fear tactics will always be utilized by a portion of the American population when someone tries to extend basic human rights to our citizens. We cannot allow that to stop us from ensuring the Founders’ promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”