The debates around healthcare in this week’s Democratic primary debates centered around one key question: whether or not to preserve the country’s private, for-profit insurance system.
Five candidates – Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio – took a clear stand in favor of eliminating the system as it currently exists and replacing it with a single-payer, Medicare for All program.
The rest of the candidates were either unclear or opposed that plan for various reasons. But the most common explanation was that they want to preserve people’s ability to choose a private plan because many Americans supposedly “like” the insurance they currently have.
While I can imagine why people with halfway decent insurance plans may be apprehensive about the idea of giving it up for a government plan they’re unfamiliar with, the notion that a significant number of Americans “like” their insurance plan is dubious.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 28, 2019
As Sanders said last night, “people don’t like their insurance, they like their doctor.”
But if you are one of these people who do in fact like their plan and aren’t willing to part with it, let me try to convince you of two things. First, the coverage you would get under a Medicare for All system would be superior and cheaper. Second, even if you don’t buy this, refusing to accept a comparable government program that would guarantee everyone the ability to get decent medical care is immoral.
Medicare for All Coverage
Under Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, very little would change for you. Sure, you would lose your current insurance, but you’d be automatically enrolled in Medicare. You’d still be able to go to the same primary care doctor you currently have, but you’d also have additional options to choose from because every doctor (with the exception of a small minority of specialists) would also be enrolled in Medicare.
The coverage you’d receive under the program would also be significantly more extensive than what private insurance can provide and would include dental and vision care. Even Michael Bennet, a presidential candidate against the proposal, has admitted that Sanders’ program offers “Cadillac insurance.”
When you go to that doctor, you will pay nothing out-of-pocket. No co-pays. No deductibles. Nothing. Instead of paying a bill to a private company every month, you will pay a tax, and if you’re not exorbitantly wealthy, that tax payment will be less than what you’re currently paying.
All major studies of Medicare for All agree on this point. At present, the average American family pays $5,200 a year in premiums for insurance, not including co-pays and deductibles. Their employers also pick up an additional $14,000 to cover the rest.
A major study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the average American family would spend 14 percent less per year under Sanders’ proposal. A study from the Rand Corporation found the average family would see $3,000 in savings per year under a single-payer system. Even the conservative Mercatus Center agreed most families would save money with Medicare for All.
This should come as no surprise. In total, the United States pays about double what other industrialized nations pay for healthcare per year, often with poorer outcomes.
The reason for this is not exactly a mystery. It should go without saying that your health insurance company is not your friend. It’s one and only goal is to give you the lowest quality coverage possible at the highest possible rate.
A system predicated on this philosophy is by nature doomed to be bloated and inefficient, and that’s exactly what our healthcare system is. It’s an abject failure that needs to be abolished and replaced as quickly as possible, not tinkered with.
Access to Healthcare
Which brings me to my second point. Even if I have not convinced you that Medicare for All would be better for you, whatever concerns you may have pale in comparison to the fact that millions of Americans – including children – do not have access to any form of healthcare at all.
For them, this debate is not an intellectual exercise, but literally a matter of life or death. A 2018 study from Harvard found that 45,000 people die needlessly every year in the United States of America because they don’t have healthcare coverage.
Further, as Warren noted on Wednesday, thousands of families face bankruptcy every year because a loved one gets sick. Do we want to live in a nation where people diagnosed with cancer are also hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt? Do we want to live in a nation where people have to rely on Go Fund Me donations to keep their house when a loved one gets sick? Do we want to live in a nation where people die because they have to ration their insulin?
Our healthcare system is a national disgrace, and no matter what some candidates may try to tell you, there is only one sensible way to put a stop to this madness: Medicare for All.
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