Medicare for All not only guarantees you care, but protects you financially too

As the 2020 Democratic Primary gets underway, there will be a lot of debate centered around healthcare (and rightfully so). Right now, the United States has the most inefficient and costly health system in the developed world. We spend greater than two times per capita more on healthcare than nations like Canada and the UK(1). In addition to around 30 million uninsured individuals(2), there are also 44 million underinsured Americans(3). Sixty five million people last year avoided obtaining treatment due to the cost(4). Horrifically, tens of thousands are dying each year due to lack of insurance(5). It is an understatement to say that our health system is failing. We need a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system like Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed. It will eliminate essentially all out of pocket payments, prevent medical bankruptcies, provide many more choices, as well as greatly expand healthcare benefits.

Currently, the decision whether to get medical treatment is unnecessarily complicated, intensely stressful, and frequently deadly. The dollars people spend on care are often taken away from other basic necessities. This means eating less and skipping meals. Being forced to cut back on fuel and heating. Maybe you must decide between paying for your health treatment or your child’s insulin medication. Rather than getting necessary care now, many people decide to postpone, leading to more risk and expensive costs later, even death. The fact that anyone needs to think about these scenarios is completely inhumane. We should eradicate these dilemmas altogether.

There’s a lot of discussion about how to best correct these disastrous shortcomings in our healthcare system. Some state that the goal and approach should be to provide universal access to healthcare. This just isn’t adequate. Equal “access” may provide everyone health insurance at face value but does not ensure that those with less money can actually receive care. If “access” means you need to pay a deductible in the thousands of dollars to be treated, that isn’t real access. Nearly 60% of Americans cannot even afford a $500 out of pocket payment(6). To give more context, close to half of workers face deductibles of $1,000 or more for individual coverage(7). The individual marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act are even worse, with nearly 90% of enrollees on a plan with a deductible higher than “$1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family.(7)” Deductibles and copays seriously hamper a large majority of the country from receiving care. If we are truly serious about having universal healthcare, we need to eliminate out of pocket payments.

We see patients being dissuaded from seeking care in other countries as well. The Netherlands recently raised the standard healthcare deductible in the country to $465 (8). A deductible of that amount has already led to “greater numbers of people abstaining from or postponing needed medical care.(8)” Meanwhile, Canada lacks universal public coverage of medicines, despite recommendations to do so. This is notable, since one in ten Canadians cannot afford their drug prescriptions(9). The significant level of cost-sharing in the available drug plans has resulted in worse health outcomes, more premature deaths, as well as an increased burden on other parts of the nation’s healthcare system(9). Senator Sanders recognizes the cause of these issues, which is why his Medicare for All legislation eliminates all out of pocket payments (besides $200 maximum a year for some prescription medicines). As stated by Vox, Sanders’ plan “would cover hospital visits, primary care, medical devices, lab services, maternity care, and prescription drugs as well as vision and dental benefits.(10)” Even long-term care benefits. It is comprehensive universal coverage in its most complete form.

The impact cannot be stressed enough. The dilemma over cost of treatment will be nonexistent. Eliminating out of pocket payments means that everyone can receive the care they need without worrying about cutting back costs in other important areas. The risk of medical bankruptcy would also be eliminated. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 42% of those diagnosed with cancer have their life’s assets completely drained within two years(11). That’s about the same probability of Stephen Curry hitting a three pointer and nearly as common as correctly calling a coin flip. No one should feel safe with that level of risk. Sanders’ proposal removes these catastrophic costs to patients altogether. Instead of you worrying about medical expenses when sick, you can focus exclusively on improving your health. You get treated. Your assets and savings are protected.

There would also no longer be a concern about where you get treated. Nearly everyone right now must deal with the restrictions of healthcare networks. You can only go to certain hospitals and see certain doctors. If you go outside the network, you can be saddled with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees(12). Sometimes you may not realize it, sometimes you don’t have an option if you’re having an emergency(11). If you’re having a heart attack, you should be going to the hospital half a mile away, not the one ten miles away. Yet, currently, the cost might be tenfold greater at the hospital that is closest. Medicare for All ensures that you not only choose your doctor but can receive care wherever you are without being penalized for doing so.

No more sacrificing your life savings for healthcare you deserve. No more intense stress about affordability and paying out of pocket. No more deductibles and copays deterring people from getting treated. No more being restricted to certain hospitals and doctors. Medicare for All creates a just healthcare system with extensive benefits for everyone.

Citations:

1 https://data.oecd.org/healthres/health-spending.htm
2 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/insur201902.pdf
3 http://fortune.com/2019/02/07/americans-health-care-underinsured-rate/
4 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/02/health/health-care-costs-borrowing/index.html
5 http://www.pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf
6 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-cant-afford-a-500-emergency-expense/
7 https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20160204.950878/full/
8 http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/fund-report/2017/may/mossialos_intl_profiles_v5.pdf
9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5094297/
10 https://www.vox.com/2019/4/10/18304448/bernie-sanders-medicare-for-all
11 https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/02/26/696321475/cancer-complications-confusing-bills-maddening-errors-and-endless-phone-calls?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&t=1551450905291
12 https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/08/27/640891882/life-threatening-heart-attack-leaves-teacher-with-108-951-bill

Will Raderman is a research fellow at Boston University and a former field organizer for the Bernie 2020 Campaign. Opinions expressed on this site are my own.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store