Medicare For All: A Comprehensive Study
How Would Bernie Sanders’s Policy of Medicare for All Affect the United States?
Millions of Americans attend the doctors every year; however, hundreds of thousands go bankrupt each year due to medical bills, and the issue is only increasing causing concern. According to a recent AJPH study, the American Journal of Public Health which focuses on health policy and public health, states that there are around 530,000 bankruptcies due to medical bills annually. This leaves many Americans with great financial struggle which can often lead to decreased emotional well-being. In fact, according to a study from the University of Princeton, “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being” by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, states that money does not equal increased happiness, but less money is frequently associated with emotional pain. In recent years democratic politicians such as Bernie Sanders have proposed plans to expand healthcare to all, but faces a lot of opposition from both Democrats and Republicans and has been a recent subject of debate in the recent 2020 election cycle. So with many Americans facing issues with paying for medical bills, and thus an overall decrease in emotional wellbeing, how would Bernie Sanders’s policy of Medicare For All affect the United States? And what opposition does it face, and why?
The United States alone spends nearly twice per capita on health care than any other developed country; according to a recent JAMA study, the Journal of American Medical Association which is a peer-reviewed medical journal, found that the United States in 2016 spent nearly 17.8% of its GDP on health care, compared to spending in other developed countries that range from 9.6% to 12.4%. These high costs are the result of the United States having thousands of different healthcare insurance plans which often results in high administrative costs. Therefore by moving to a universal healthcare program or single-payer it would greatly reduce the high administrative costs. In a recent Yale study, which focused on researching how to improve healthcare in the United States, found that a single-payer system would save the United States $450 billion annually. This Yale study is no outlier either, recently as Medicare for All gains popularity more studies are beginning to appear showing that a single-payer system would save the U.S. government money. In fact, in a PLOS Medicine study, which is a peer-reviewed weekly medical journal, looked at over 22 different studies on the estimated cost of a single-payer program and found that every study showed that a single-payer healthcare insurance plan in the U.S. would yield net savings over several years. Medical professionals and patients agree that the healthcare system currently is dysfunctional, and as mortality rates decrease it has been a growing concern in recent presidential debates.
Not only will the U.S. government save money but so will the average middle-class American. According to a RAND Corporation study, which is an American nonprofit think tank for research and analysis, found that a single-payer program for the state of New York would greatly reduce the amount of money New Yorkers paid while higher-income residents will pay more. This works because, yes taxes will be higher, but also it must be taken into account that there will not be any insurance premiums, copays, and deductibles which causes the total out-of-pocket expenses to go down. By reducing the amount of money Americans pay in medical bills, which causes around 45,000 Americans to die every year, more people will be saved as a result of Medicare for All. In a current Yale study, published by the Lancet, stated that Medicare for All could save more than 68,000 lives annually. By saving money and lives of those who are not as fortunate in America the happiness and wellbeing of Americans will greatly improve and as John Stuart Mill states in On Virtue and Happiness, “there is in reality nothing desired except happiness.” And thus can be emphasized that happiness is desired by everyone, and by decreasing the annual deaths due to lack of health insurance it would save thousands from pain and suffering. Medicare for All would also reduce the extremely high drug prices in the U.S., last year alone 5 people died due to rationing insulin because of how expensive it is in the U.S. By switching to a Medicare for All system prescription drug prices will be greatly lowered. An OECD study, which is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that the United States pays almost twice per capita on prescription drug prices compared to other countries. This is because the United States allows companies to change the prices of drugs overnight if they wish. In changing this system of profiteering it will save thousands of Americans from dying due to not being able to afford their prescription drugs.
Bernie Sanders, a recent presidential candidate for the democratic party, brought the topic of Medicare for All to the forefront of today’s politics. According to a Reuters-Ipsos survey, 85% of Democrats said they support Medicare for All. However, not every Democrat in politics fully supports this plan. Recent presidential candidates such as Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Michael Bloomberg have all come out against Medicare for All and have suggested a form of Medicare that would either expand Obamacare or Medicare for All who want it.
One main proponent of legislation such as Medicare for All who want it is the former mayor of South Bend. Pete Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg shares a common frustration with Medicare for All as other democratic politicians, and in the fourth presidential debate in Ohio, Pete Buttigieg raised the fear of how Medicare for All would raise taxes significantly on the middle class and cost far more than our current system; which republican politicians also state.
However, what many democrats and republicans miss is that Medicare for All has been shown to save the U.S. money when converting over to a single-payer system and that American families would be spending less money by paying through taxes than regular healthcare premiums, copayments, and deductibles which would be non-existent in a single-payer system. In a study published by Political Economy Research Institute, which is a group of economists from the University of Massachusetts, found that Medicare for All would range between 2.6 and 14% for middle-income families. These taxes would save money for middle-income families who buy private insurance, and will see their healthcare costs fall by 14%. Therefore, Pete Buttigieg along with many other Democrats concerns about higher taxes although they are valid, take away from the fact that Americans would be saving money by switching to Medicare for All system. Overall Medicare for All has been at the forefront of the recent democratic presidential debates and has sparked intrigue by the American people, including Republicans.
The majority of Republican politicians have fought against Medicare for All for over a decade; yet according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, favorability of Medicare for All among republicans stands at 52%. Many Republicans argue that Medicare for All would take away benefits from seniors. In a 2018 USA Today, an op-ed by Donald J. Trump stated that Medicare for All would take away benefits from seniors. However the leading Medicare for All plans proposed by Senator Sanders would increase benefits and would cover dental, vision, and hearing aids which are not covered under traditional coverage. Another popular concern from Republicans and sometimes Democrats is that a single-payer system would increase wait times and destroy access to quality care. Yet when looking at data from countries with universal coverage and looking at expanding healthcare in the U.S. it is shown that patients in countries with universal coverage have similar wait times than patients in the U.S. Further, in a Commonwealth Funds “Mirror, Mirror” study, which was a study that looked at numerous factors across 10 European countries and the U.S., found that patients in universal coverage countries reported that they were able to see a medical professional the same or next day they searched for medical care. But, the study also shows that it took longer for patients to get specialized tests which include CT and MRI scans along with nonemergency surgery. So although average wait times are the same, wait times for specialized tests or non-emergency surgery may take longer in countries with universal coverage. Even in right-leaning studies it can be found how beneficial Medicare for All would be in terms of being cost-effective. In a Mercatus study done by Charlies Blahous, the Mercatus Center senior research strategist, found that Medicare for All would cost the U.S. around $32 trillion over a 10 year period, but conveniently leaves out the fact that that’s a 2 trillion savings from our current system. Although Republican politicians are against Medicare for All, the favorability among Republicans is rising, and the movement has been only getting stronger, however the healthcare industry has had a large influence over politicians, and continues to have a large control over our political system.
In 2018 the pharmaceutical industry spent around $27.5 million on lobbying, according to federal filings. This large amount of lobbying often increases when the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry gets scared of possible legislation that could harm them. Some of the top privately operated hospitals such as Tenet Healthcare have already donated to Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is a dark money organization that works to decrease the support for Medicare For All.
Large healthcare providers fear Medicare for All legislation because they claim that it would greatly reduce their revenue and cause facilities to close. Although a Medicare for All system may cause job loss by eliminating the private insurance industry, a new study done by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which was written by Josh Bivens who is the research director at EPI, found that a single-payer system would increase wages, boost job quality, and produce a net increase in jobs. The study recognizes that job loss will come with Medicare for All, but the job loss will be outweighed by job gains in provisional healthcare and in expanding long-term care. Overall the healthcare industry wishes to keep its influence and control over healthcare in America and lobby against Medicare for All systems to block any legislation.
It is important to take note that these studies also may have biases toward one side of the political spectrum over the other, but the overarching data supports that Medicare for All would greatly benefit America. However, with these studies being done it is still greatly unknown how exactly it will change the American healthcare system and how long it would take to be fully established.
With all the facts showing undoubtedly that Medicare for All would greatly benefit American society the only obstacle that exists is getting it passed. Although Medicare for All is a very popular policy in America getting it passed is extremely difficult and time-consuming. And as recently Vermont senator Bernard Sanders has dropped out of the presidential race it is now increasingly difficult to get this type of legislation passed. But if supporters of Medicare for All start making a drastic movement to get it passed and vote for people who support it into congress then it is a real possibility.
If Americans do not take action in the upcoming elections then hundreds of thousands could die due to lack of health insurance. Already, Medicare for All systems are being discussed due to the effects of the Coronavirus and how less fortunate Americans are unable to get Coronavirus testing due to its affordability and accessibility. Further, Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are demanding that the vaccine be free to everyone when it is created; furthering the support for Medicare for All.
Overall, Bernie Sanders’s policy of Medicare for All would greatly improve America from the economy to American’s happiness. The U.S. spends almost twice per capita on healthcare than any country yet the hundreds of thousands of American people go bankrupt due to medical bills over injuries they may not even be in control of preventing. Many Americans agree with Bernie Sanders’s policy of Medicare for All, and as Bernie Sanders said: “every man woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare that they need regardless of their income.” Medicare for All would save money and save lives, but now it’s up to the lawmakers to decide whether or not they would like to see it get passed.