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U.S. needs to move toward single-payer health insurance

Close to 28 million American citizens lack health insurance, and even those with coverage struggle to afford the premiums and co-pays.

blood-pressure machine
REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
There is a national emergency here in America. I am not referring to our southern border or the impeachment inquiries or even the opioid crisis. I am talking about close to 28 million American citizens lacking health insurance. Even those with coverage struggle to afford the premiums and co-pays. Consider these statistics:

A report done by the Commonwealth Fund stated that in 2016, approximately 25% of working adults with employer-sponsored health care had such extreme out-of-pocket costs and deductibles in line with their income levels that they were not adequately insured.

A study from Harvard University revealed that 62% of bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. In a study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health found a link between 45,000 annual deaths and being uninsured.

Spending more than other nations, for little satisfaction

To add insult to injury, the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world. Yet according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, satisfaction reached a 10-year low in 2015.

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These are just a few of the reports I looked at. I could cite a long list of other studies and surveys that reveal much of the same. Access to affordable health care in the U.S. is at a critical stage. Even the term, “Affordable Care Act” is a misnomer. Here’s a representative example: I know of one woman who is self-employed who pays nearly one-fourth of her GROSS income for health insurance. It’s the cheapest policy available to her, and it comes with a deductible close to $7,000. Her health care costs far exceed her housing expenses. And she’s not alone. Her case is far too common.

And then there are those who have elected to go without insurance coverage because they simply can’t afford it. The tax penalty is often less than one month’s insurance premium. And so they take a gamble, going without coverage, hoping they don’t have a medical emergency.

Brent William Henry
Brent William Henry
I am an individual who is pro-life and I believe everyone has a right to — as the United States Declaration of Independence puts it — “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We as a country are not currently living up to these ideals.

All Americans should be covered

In my opinion, it is morally reprehensible to make an individual’s medical necessities about maximizing monetary profitability. Someone who is unfortunately stricken with illness should be treated as a patient, not a consumer. It is time that America fully embraces the concept of universal health care coverage. The best way to achieve that, in my opinion, is to usher in a progressive single-payer system.

There are two primary ways to implement such a structure. The more left-wing approach would be public funding of public institutions. This method is used in the United Kingdom. All medical professionals work for the government. Medicare for All would be the second option, which is public funding for a single insurer. Physicians under such a system would still be able to run their own practice or work for a private group. A single-payer system like the bill introduced in the House as Medicare for All Act of 2019, H.R. 1384, would effectively eliminate the concept of co-pays and deductibles. (There are other options that would still incorporate co-pays and deductibles, but it is anticipated they would be far less than under the existing system.)

Many options for paying

The natural question is, how would we pay for all of this? The good news is we can pay for it and there are various ways of doing so. I have seen multiple reports of a single-payer system costing approximately $3 trillion annually. Economist Stephen Marks proposes ending the cap on payroll taxes and applying payroll taxes to all income, including interest and capital gains. He estimates this will raise close to $1.5 trillion. Economist Robert Pollin suggests two-thirds of the required funds could come from redirecting current spending from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders advocates for a 70% top marginal tax rate on Americans earning over $10 million per year as a way to partially fund Medicare for All. According to an article written by oral and maxillofacial surgeon Kate de Klerk, switching to a single-payer system would end up saving America around $200 billion a year by canceling out administrative overhead expenses.

Whatever your opinion on this topic, I think we can all agree that America is in need of health-care reform, and it seems the natural evolution is to gradually shift into a single-payer model. Many countries already have such a system in place, such as Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea.

There was a survey conducted this past summer by the Morning Consult that found 55% of voters back a Medicare for All system that would decrease the role of private insurers, if people can still maintain access to their choice of providers. I can foresee Medicare for All becoming more popular as our current system continues to collapse. Please contact your local legislators and make your voice heard about the many benefits of single-payer health care.

Brent William Henry is an independent voter from Finlayson, Minnesota. 

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