IF YOU think America has the greatest health care system in the world, think again:
$500 billion-plus is wasted each year in administrative, marketing, overhead, and profit costs, more than Germany, France, or Japan spend on their health care systems.
600,000 hardworking American families (most with health insurance) endure medical bankruptcy each year. Money saved for retirement or to help out the kids is instead spent on unaffordable medical costs.
30 million people are uninsured; as many as 85 million are underinsured.
45,000 avoidable deaths occur every year because so many people put off timely but unaffordable medical care.
Of the world’s advanced nations, only America lacks universal coverage, even as we spend nearly twice as much per person and have worse medical outcomes.
Instead, we have a multiple-payer system of health insurance that is incomprehensibly complex and prohibitively expensive to run—and gives every impression of putting the interests of the patient behind that of powerful medical industry interests, especially the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
Are most people really satisfied with their employer-supplied health insurance? I’m not so sure. People may feel fortunate to have coverage, but I don’t know many who are happy with the ever-increasing costs: higher premiums, co-pays, and especially onerous deductibles and expensive medications.
America will spend $3.5 trillion on health care this year (that’s more than the GDP of Canada)—and waste at least $500 billion of that on costs that accommodate our multiple-payer system without providing a shred of healthcare to anyone.
But single-payer Medicare-for-All (M4A) eliminates that wasteful spending and instead earmarks it for actual patient care—and at that point we’d have enough money to give “first-dollar” coverage (no co-pays, no deductibles, no need for supplemental insurance) for everyone in the country for all medically necessary care, including doctor and hospital visits, labs, X-rays, nursing home care, and medications.
How are we going to pay for it?
We already do. We already have enough money in the system to give everyone first-dollar coverage for all medically necessary care. We just don’t spend it wisely, given the immense waste in our current system.
Rather than having a health insurance system that involves Medicare, Medicaid and hundreds of individual (and generally for-profit) insurance companies, a single government-related entity similar to the Medicare we have now will collect health care contributions from most everyone with an income, and will pay 100 percent for our health care.
Administrative and other redundant and unnecessary costs, currently in the 15–20 percent range for the health insurance industry, will drop to 1–3 percent of total healthcare costs—levels already seen in Medicare and the Canadian single-payer system.
The system becomes truly affordable for everyone because your income determines your health care contribution.
And M4A will keep intact our current health care delivery system, with its independent providers (hospitals, physicians, pharmacies etc.) that is rightly the envy of the world.
In other words, with single-payer Medicare-for-All, we would be changing how we pay for—not how we deliver—our health care, which should appeal across the political spectrum because good health care, like any good policy, should be bipartisan and nonpartisan.
Single-payer Medicare-for-All is the answer because:
It’s cheaper to run the system.
It bends the health care cost curve.
Universal contributions are based largely on your income.
It increases competition: You get to choose your doctor.
There’s less outside interference: You and your doctor decide what is best for you, not some bureaucrat.
It’s great for business.
M4A rightly turns on its head the free market idea that you should get only what you can pay for because when it comes to your health, you should get the care you need to get better.
Which is the whole idea behind any insurance. We insure against unexpected and unaffordable occurrences, including illness. M4A makes that insurance affordable for all.
There is much misinformation about M4A. And perhaps more indifference about the current system’s huge waste in money and lives than we’d like to admit. But in the end, the choice will boil down to protecting the profits of the health care industries or the health of every individual in the country.