While the Republican Party is busy taking healthcare from 22 million Americans, the Democrats are struggling to find a coherent rallying cry of their own. Many feel the fact the Republican healthcare bill will take coverage from 22 million people is the only rally cry they need. Yet that hasn’t proved to be enough in any of the various special election contests which have been held to date and if the Democrats don’t want to leave anything to chance in 2018 they would be well advised to find a message of their own. Medicare for all. In a time where healthcare is clearly the issue of the day, medicare for all is that message.
Medicare is an incredibly popular program and phasing in a medicare for all system on top of the structure provided by the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t be as unfeasible as building a separate single payer system from the ground up. Simply allowing medicare buy in as part of a public option, an idea that almost made it into the original text of the Affordable Care Act, would allow an easy transition toward a single payer system. It would also allow the American people to decide if a medicare for all system is something they are interested in.
With enough people paying into medicare a medicare for all system becomes far more feasible and the benefits of such a system would show themselves quickly. Specifically such a system would bring significant economic benefits. Benefits that would both save money and could lead to massive reductions in cost if international experience with single payer systems is even close to what might happen in the United States.
Specifically, single payer gives everybody access to preventative care which saves every single American money in the long run. As it stands now, even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans forgo annual checkups and routine medical care. Often times, especially among healthier Americans, this doesn’t end up meaning much. For uninsured Americans with health issues, no insurance means higher emergency room bills for taxpayers at the local level. When people’s medical issues come to a head, they end up in the emergency room and very rarely are they turned down. For people with chronic illness this generally means outrageous bills they could never afford and hospitals forcing county taxpayers to foot the bill. In county after county, especially in rural America, this is most people’s relationship with the healthcare system.
People pushing emergency medical bills to the county is something a single payer system can forgo entirely by providing Americans with healthcare when they need it and allowing every American access to preventive care which often prevents high cost medical issues from developing in the first place. And when health care issues inevitably raise their ugly head, as they will for basically all of us, medicare for all provides another key benefit, a clear mechanism for price control.
One of the biggest benefits of a single payer system comes from the inherent power of collective bargaining it provides the people within it. Insurance companies can only bargain for prices to the extent that their customer base is able to demand lower costs by threatening to withhold their money or move to a different healthcare provider. The larger the insurance company, the more bargaining power, in much the same way the larger the employer the more bargaining power they have with insurance companies themselves. This same concept applies to insurance companies and their dealings with pharmaceutical companies and medical care providers.
Medicare for all allows Americans to collectively demand lower prices and as it stands now Americans pay more on the dollar for healthcare with no clear improvement in care outcomes. Millions of people pay incredible out of pocket costs to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals, costs which would be much lower in other countries with single payer systems. Costs that American citizens could lower if they embarked on a similar restructuring of their healthcare system.
The biggest problems in American healthcare are lack of coverage for various reasons and incredibly high prices for both insurance and medical procedures themselves. Medicare for all fixes all of these problems. On top of that it is far more morally defensible than the status quo or the alternatives supported by Republicans, because unlike those other schemes medicare for all provides coverage for every American.
The Democrats need a message, people are fed up with their healthcare, and data suggests that should people actually switch to medicare they would enjoy their coverage far more than they do private insurance. According to Pew Research 77% of Americans on Medicare are satisfied with their coverage. Over 10 percentage points higher than the level of satisfaction shown for private insurance.
Single payer healthcare is the system the American people need and the only proposal floating around American politics that would actually solve the fundamental problems many Americans have with health care to begin with. More importantly though it’s the only system that provides healthcare for all Americans and if the richest country in the history of the planet can’t even do that, then what the hell is the point?