Is it time for Medicare-for-all?
In the wake of a ruling against the Affordable Care Act over the weekend, and with no bipartisan proposal in sight, the push for medical coverage "for all" regains strength. Is it really what suits us?
"Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege," has been the phrase consistently uttered by Vermont's independent senator, and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. "The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program."
That is, Medicare-for-all.
The American health system is known to be of a private nature almost entirely.
In a country that boasts the highest rates of obesity, car accidents and sexually transmitted diseases in the world, medical coverage should be a priority, and not merely a political issue.
Though since 2010 there have been some initiatives to make medical care affordable, a 2014 study found that among the health care systems of the 11 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. system is "the most expensive and the least effective in terms of access to health, efficiency, and equity.”
Unlike the other countries, the American health system doesn’t cover the entire population, due in particular to its high cost. The options available to citizens are usually group plans, Medicaid, Medicare or the health insurance markets that were created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA.)
Known as Obamacare, the ACA allowed for increased medical coverage thanks to the expansion of eligibility, and new regulations in the individual insurance markets.
This involved new expenses, financed through new taxes and the cutting of rates in the Medicare and Medicare Advantage providers. It also highlighted the limitation of costs and the increase of financing needed to guarantee the improvement in the quality of medical care.
Thanks to a new ruling by a federal judge in Texas, however, this program is suddenly at risk, and there is no alternative plan in Congress.
Senator Sanders' initiative proposes: "finally separating health insurance from employment," guaranteeing that medical health is a right and not a privilege.
According to his platform, Sanders suggests "creat[ing] a federally administered single-payer health care program," similar to what countries such as Canada and France have.
This program would include a "comprehensive coverage" for all citizens, including hospitalization and ambulatory care, prevention and emergencies.
"Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs."
Organizations like United Medicare Advisors and National Nurses United have backed the initiative, stating that "the average middle-class family would save up to $5,800 per year" under Medicare-for-all, would avoid dealing with insurance companies, and would reduce stress.
That's simple: because those who manage the monopoly of insurers and pharmaceutical companies would stop profiting at the expense of the common citizen.
According to the New York Times, the only people who would be negatively affected by this proposal would be the pharmaceutical companies, which will have to negotiate the new prices with the government, and the health insurance companies, which would most likely disappear.
What is preventing this initiative from being a viable proposal at the moment is a coherent economic plan that allows the transition of the national health system, something that depends almost exclusively on Congress' finance committees.
But in a country in full political transformation, the idea of medical coverage for everyone takes increasing levels of strength.
Only during the midterm elections, the second generation of Sanders supporters - such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan - gained significant support among voters, many of whom prioritized healthcare when casting their votes.
Under an administration at the moment that cuts taxes for the very wealthiest, and is committed to wasting billions of dollars on militarizing and building a wall at the border, investing that money instead in transforming health coverage into a right shouldn't sound so far-fetched.