Universal Healthcare: Yea or Nay?
May 8, 2020
This Crossfire represents the reboot of The Advocate‘s popular print feature presenting opposing view points on important issues. In this moment, what could be more important than question of healthcare?
Time for Universal Healthcare
Universal healthcare for all Americans. This is a topic that Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren brought to the forefront in the Democratic Debates, provoking heated discussions amongst Republicans, Moderate Democrats, and Far-Left Democrats alike. Although both Senator Sanders and Senator Warren have dropped out of the race, paving the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to be the Democratic Presidential Nominee, the issue of universal healthcare is more relevant than ever, having gained traction amongst many Americans in recent years and being spotlighted due to the Coronavirus outbreak. In our current climate of Coronavirus, some uninsured families are facing up to $75,000 in hospital bills, making the debate over universal healthcare a highly important issue.
The basic design of universal healthcare allows for every American to have access to quality healthcare when they need it, regardless of their income or age. At the moment, Americans over the age of 65, low-income households with children, and people with disabilities qualify for the health insurance program called Medicare. Universal healthcare (sometimes called “Medicare for All”,” acts in a similar manner to Medicare, but it would be for all ages and socio-economics, and because everyone would be covered, it would eliminate the need for private health insurance. At the moment, wealthier members of society or those with better health insurance are prioritized when it comes to hospital visits and elective medical procedures. In addition, uninsured citizens or citizens with government issued, poor health insurance, would no longer struggle to pay their medical bills,or even avoid necessary treatment due to their lack of coverage.
A large issue with the current medical system is the private insurance system. With high deductibles and copays as well as pricey insurance premiums, only people who can afford quality insurance, or are provided with quality health insurance through their employers are able to pay for the type of medical attention that they require. The healthcare system primarily benefits the upper classes. From prescriptions to check-ups, many people with poor insurance or no insurance are unable to afford their basic medical necessities. In addition, because companies with 50 or more employees are required to give their employees health insurance, companies will often provide them with the most affordable, and therefore lowest quality, health insurance. With universal healthcare, universal healthcare would eliminate the need for insurance. This would include not only medical insurance, but also dental, hearing, and vision insurance.
With the elimination of insurance, “500 billion dollars annually” would be saved in “billing and administration costs”, according to Senator Sanders. Doctors, nurses, and administrators spend hours out of their day filling out the necessary paperwork to charge patients’ insurance companies with the hospital bills, using up valuable time that could be spent with patients. In addition, businesses would no longer need to spend time and money providing their employees with health insurance; this would allow owners to meet with investors, remodel, or invest their money in stocks, overall improving their businesses and communities.
Meanwhile, under the universal healthcare bill, prescription drugs will be made affordable by the government placing tight restrictions on major drug companies, saving citizens billions of dollars annually. These companies, which have profited immensely from overcharging for medications, will be forced through competition from generic drug manufacturers to lower the prices for prescription drugs. In addition, the government would provide funding for those members of society who cannot afford the lowered drug prices, ensuring that everyone from all walks of life receive the proper treatments they require.
The financial and humanitarian benefits of universal healthcare outweigh the disadvantages that this bill would create. Billions of dollars would be saved through both insurance expenses and prescription drugs, and all citizens will be provided with the care they need, without fear of debt. Not only will universal healthcare help the citizens, but it will also benefit the economy. Hospitals will be able to spend more time assessing patients and less time filling out insurance forms, and businesses will have less overhead because they will no longer need to provide their employees with quality healthcare. universal healthcare is inexplicably the next step America needs to take in order to create a more successful and healthy future.
Universal Healthcare is not the Answer
This year has marked the beginning of a loaded election season. From the recent impeachment trial, conflict with Iran, and a global pandemic, there is no doubt that we, as a nation, have faced a lot of adversities. The global corornavirus pandemic currently affecting all citizens regardless of race, sex, status, or wealth tops the list. As such, the long debated topic of Medicare for All becomes even more important as our health care system faces circumstances it was not ready for. So the long debated question still stands: is Medicare for All the answer to our broken healthcare system?
Universal Healthcare is a highly debated topic, yet younger generations who support this policy– as shown by a 2018 report by CNBC asserting that 70% of all Americans support Medicare for all (MFA)– are not looking at the long term effects of a government-run health system. From the top, the system could seem like it would be running smoothly, but inside the actual hospitals, MFA could be devastating and lead to many fatalities. In order to provide proper funding for a MFA program, a federal budget cut in health services would be required. This would be due to the fact that there is simply not enough federal funds available to provide insurance for every citizen while also funding hospitals and their needs. While politicians such as Bernie Sanders have claimed to solve this issue through increased taxation on those who earn more than $29,000, experts and citizens alike seem to find this a rather daring suggestion. In addition, although this taxation policy has been estimated to raise $436 billion annually, imposing higher taxes on those with an income below $63,179 (the average household income as of 2017) may prove to be financially devastating for those who are already struggling to provide for themselves with a less than livable income. Either way, there is no winning side as citizens would be placed at a disadvantage through taxation and/or federal budget cuts. .
Unfortunately, citizens are not the only ones who would be put at a loss. Hospitals are estimated to suffer as well. Health care budget cuts would undermine financial prerequisites to afford potentially life saving technologies– think ventilators, CT scanners, and MRI scanners, all necessary devices for physicians to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment of serious conditions. In addition, healthcare paid for at Medicare rates would not provide enough money for hospitals to function as they do now. Doctors may be required to take pay cuts while also working overtime to provide for people who previously did not have access to their services. IRevenue cuts would also be devastating when considering situations such as those that we are facing today: pandemics. Had hospitals been running on finances that would have been available through medicare rates, there is little doubt that due to limited healthcare supplies, overworked doctors, and crowded conditions, perhaps more lives would have been lost.
Lastly, major changes to America’s healthcare system are simply not necessary. According to news source STAT 9 out of 10 U.S. citizens currently have health coverage.Not to mention, Universal Healthcare would completely damage the private health insurance business that Politico states is worth approximately $670 billion and therefore, a major player in our country’s economy. Not only would poorer healthcare be provided, but our economy could also face damage.
Canada’s single-payer system is one that many liberals look to as an example for universal healthcare plans in America, because on the surface, it seems to be a well-oiled machine. But Canada’s medical system is very flawed, and not the best example for what those Americans are expecting. Canadian taxpayers in 2018 paid an average of $6,849 on healthcare alone, whereas in America, the average person only paid around $3,400 in the same year. With poverty levels 3.1% higher in the US than Canada, many people cannot afford to pay higher taxes for medicare (US Census and Canadian Dimensions of Poverty Hub 2018). According to the CommonWealth Fund, only 13% of hospitals are public, leading to waiting lists that could be days long, even for people in need of emergency treatment. The Federalist reports that in the same four-week period, 30% more Americans saw specialists than Canadians did. BioMed Central reports that the percentage of med-school graduates plummeted in the 1990’s by almost two thirds.. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 7,700 out of 100,000 residents are graduating from Canadian medical schools as of 2019. The Canadian system is more flawed than meets the eye and is a long way from running smoothly.
So while Medicare for All seems to be the perfect solution for all Americans on a surface level, a deeper dive will reveal that limiting factors would not only harm hospitals and citizens seeking healthcare, it would also prove detrimental in a global health crisis not unlike the one we are facing today. In unprecedented circumstances, it is the duty of the federal government to ensure that all citizens, regardless of financial circumstances, can receive aid. Medicare for All, however, is not the answer.