Medicare-for-all is a good opportunity

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FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Consumer and health care groups say they’re trying to block a move by the pharmaceutical industry to commandeer must-pass opioids epidemic legislation as a vehicle for rolling back drugmaker discounts to Medicare beneficiaries with high prescription costs. Republican leaders were saying little about behind-the-scenes discussions on Sept. 21,, but a spokesman for Pelosi calls it a “a multi-billion dollar handout to Big Pharma.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

The idea of a Medicare-for-all healthcare system has gained traction in recent years, especially in the Democratic Party. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 62 percent of Americans support the idea, with a decreasing number responding in the affirmative when referred to as other names such as a national health plan (56 percent) and single-payer healthcare (48 percent).

While the Medicare-for-all moniker can be a bit ambiguous, the specific plan that has been proposed by Bernie Sanders is synonymous with a single-payer system. What this essentially means is that there would be one government-run plan that provides coverage for all Americans and people would not have to pay out of pocket for health needs. The plan would also expand insurance coverage by including dental, vision and other areas.

This idea gained increased attention recently after a study by the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Institute crunched the numbers on the Sanders plan and found that it would result in a $32 trillion dollar increase in federal spending over a 10 year period. But there is, as always, more to it than that. Namely, the study estimates that overall healthcare spending in the U.S. will slightly decrease.

Now it’s worth pointing out that with any study of this kind a lot of assumptions are being made. So the final numbers could look drastically different, possibly costing much more or much less. But working off of the current estimates, the bottom line is that we as a country would be spending about the same amount on healthcare that we are currently, but everyone will have insurance and the insurance will cover more areas.

Now I’m not the best at math (just kidding I’m an engineering student I rock at that), but (current spending + more coverage + better plans) > (current spending + current coverage + current plans). Assuming these numbers are in the ballpark (and again, there is a lot of room for error) the argument around Medicare-for-all has to revolve around whether people are comfortable with the government controlling healthcare in the nation.

On the pro side of government control, we have the aforementioned better healthcare for everyone at approximately the same cost. The question marks then revolve around whether people are comfortable with the government having control over healthcare and how the tax costs will be allocated among the populace.

Now some people get frazzled about “Big Government” dictating all the healthcare, but pretty much everyone I’ve talked to in countries like Norway, where they have such a system in place are quite pleased with what they’ve gotten. And it’s not like countries are less free with government healthcare; in fact in the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom 16 out of the 17 countries ranked above the United States have universal, publicly funded healthcare (the only exception being Georgia). Same goes for all of the 16 countries freer than the U.S. according to the Human Freedom Index. So evidence suggests that people are just as free with government healthcare (and don’t get me started on the happiness ratings for those countries).

That leaves tax allocation. Don’t get me wrong, almost everyone’s taxes are going to rise under this plan. The harder question is how many people will be paying more overall when comparing their taxes and out-of-pocket costs currently versus what the taxes will be under the plan. The trouble is that it’s quite difficult to predict exactly what shape these taxes will take. One could reasonably assume that because it is a Democrat initiative they would seek to have larger burdens paid by the rich, and then progressively lower taxes would be paid as we move down the income brackets.

But based on the information that overall the country will be paying about the same for healthcare, let’s assume that the total each person pays will be the same or a little less, considering that healthcare costs have been consistently rising in the past and more people will be paying into the system. This means, that for around the same amount they are paying now they will get a more extensive healthcare plan and the security that comes with universal healthcare. Meaning if complications arise with your job or a sudden illness strikes, you don’t have to worry about your healthcare plan. The importance of this security cannot be overstated, and it is likely one of they key reasons so many countries with universal healthcare rank very highly in the economic freedom index.

To sum up, a study funded by a libertarian leaning group found that implementing a Medicare-for-all system would keep overall healthcare spending fairly consistent while more people would be covered with more benefits. This system would greatly increase the role of the federal government in healthcare, which has been successfully demonstrated in numerous other countries. Having universal healthcare would contribute to economic freedom, allowing more flexibility in job selection and preventing economic catastrophe in the face of expensive health problem. Overall the evidence points to the U.S. greatly benefiting from such an initiative and people all around the country should start pushing for its implementation.


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.

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