Let’s get this straight – we in America spend far too much on healthcare, and in return we do not get the same quantity or quality of healthcare as other developed nations. In fact, American health care lags behind the entire developed world, with the World Health Organization rating it on par with developing countries like Tunisia. The American taxpayer puts out more of their hand-earned money towards healthcare than in any other country. We might not have a tax specific to it, but because the state has so little involvement in the markets there is no reason for providers to keep down costs. Drug prices are more expensive in the US than anywhere else, and hospital stays are among the most expensive in the world. This means that Americans pay far more each year for health care than people living in Canada, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, or any other rich country.
And for all that money spent, 10% of our fellow citizens are still left completely uninsured and many more are under-insured by skimpy policies, leading to premature deaths from preventable illnesses and high costs for everyone because of emergency room visits. The United States ranks 35th in the world in terms of overall health, and we have declining lifespans and rising infant mortality. How is it that the richest country in the history of the world can embrace the idea that its citizens should suffer and die needlessly while health care companies post record profits? Health care needs to be treated as a human right.
I support moving to a public system for insurance – not for provider care, but for insurance. In essence, Medicare for all, as a single point of contact for payment (a form of single-payer). This cuts out the extremely wasteful private insurance sector, which raises costs not only for consumers, but for providers, who have had steadily to increase their administrative costs in order to keep straight the vast profusion of insurance plans and policies in use in the country. Medicare as the sole payer also allows for direct negotiation with the pharmaceutical industry, and with equipment and service providers, which means that through economies of scale we could see dramatic decreases in costs across the board. There is a reason the US system is so much more expensive than anywhere else! People could still choose to enroll in supplementary private systems, if they like, though these would likely exist more to provide non-essential procedures rather than basic care. But even those private insurers who stay in the system would see their costs reduced due to competitive market pressures from Medicare public option. This competition would improve quality and lower costs, bringing the United States finally in line with the rest of the developed world’s outcomes.
Contrary to what some on the right will say, this is not “socialism”! A socialist system is one in which private ownership of industry is prohibited. What this does is add competition through a mixed system, which can offer the best of both worlds – market pressures would ensure the best product for the best price, and the scale of the public insurer would drive down prices and its non-profit nature ensure that those most disadvantaged in our economy are not left behind and pushed into an early grave. In addition, public insurance would greatly stimulate overall economic growth and spur entrepreneurship. When people know they will have health insurance no matter what, they are more willing to take economic risks, such as starting their own business, without having to worry if they can see the doctor. Such freedom opens up new possibilities for ambitious Americans to get ahead. The United States used to lead the world in social mobility – people climbing higher on the economic ladder – but has been overtaken by western European countries which provide services like this. By providing the opportunity for all individuals to meet their potential, we help ourselves and our entire society, making universal health care not only a moral issue, but a sound economic policy.