Healthcare, a bureaucratic jumble of joy that hardly anyone fully understands, could ultimately decide who wins the Democratic primary elections this spring. Presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren back Medicare for All, a single-payer system that replaces private healthcare with a single public program. It’s a type of universal health coverage that secures the right to adequate healthcare for all citizens.
While the other side of the aisle typically favors reducing government programs, the left believes healthcare is a human right. In the 2020 election, healthcare will be a prominent and possibly deciding issue for candidates like Sanders, who wants to revolutionize our broken system.
The U.S. currently has the biggest private insurance sector in the world but spends the most on healthcare out of just about anywhere else. This is no coincidence.
Thousands of healthcare providers cover the same care at different price points, creating $476 billion in administrative waste. Because private industry prioritizes profit over people, Americans pay double for healthcare than countries with universal health coverage.
Even with so many private options, almost 30 million Americans are left uninsured. A majority are poor and non-white. With a lack of affordable plans, averaging at $28,166 for a family of 4 in 2018 and only increasing, many opt for no coverage at all. Because healthcare costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States, the sick remain poor and the poor remain sick.
Under Medicare for All, there would be no premiums or deductibles, and equitable taxation would account for wealth disparity. It is estimated that the U.S. would save upwards of $5 trillion in ten years under this system according to The Nation.
For those who are underinsured or completely uninsured, single-payer healthcare would mean they could finally receive adequate healthcare at set prices that do not break the bank. With doctors, hospitals, facilities and overall quality of care unaffected, the only thing that would change would be the way it’s paid for.
We cannot realistically ‘shop’ for healthcare. Tragedies and accidents happen. Not everyone can afford Gucci, just like not everyone can afford life-saving surgery, but literally anyone could need the latter to survive. With life or death consequences, people do not have time to negotiate costs down or make well-thought out decisions about both their finances and their health. No matter how independent we think we are, we cannot always fight for ourselves in an unjust system.
A majority of comparable countries such as Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have versions of universal health coverage, and its systems automatically protect citizens.
As of 2017 in the U.S., 60% of Americans believe that it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have healthcare coverage, and 53% support single-payer healthcare, according to Pew Research Center.
As America warms up to progressive policy, these numbers are only growing. Politicians like Sanders assure us that we deserve better, refusing money from profit-centered insurance and drug companies. When Sanders first proposed the Medicare for All bill, he claimed, “The current debate over Medicare for All really has nothing to do with healthcare. It has everything to do with greed and profiteering. It is about whether we continue with a dysfunctional system.”