America has been lagging behind the rest of the world on a few fronts. Perhaps the most glaring of these is healthcare for all. Currently more than 150 counties have either free healthcare, defined as a publicly funded system that carries a minimal fee, and no exceptions based on wealth, or universal healthcare, defined as providing financial protection and healthcare to a least 90 percent of citizens. Increasingly the United States has no excuse for its lack of health insurance for all, as even small counties like Slovenia, the 144th largest country with a population barely over 2 million, and Taiwan, cover all of their citizens.
In America there are currently around 30 million Americans without health coverage, and this is unacceptable. Over half a million of those are homeless, and of those homeless around 40 thousand are veterans, the very people many claim to be supporting, but at the same time are still opposed to nationalized healthcare. It is clear to the rest of the world that, with the world’s largest economy, the US clearly needs a universal healthcare system, and it seems that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree.
Currently 70 percent of the US population agrees that the United States needs some sort of single payer system, this includes over 50 percent of Republicans. This evidence shows that the populace in America is overwhelmingly in favor of a nationalized healthcare system. However due to financial interests it is unsurprising that nothing has been done. The current cost according to the Senate Office of Public Records reports that over $290 million was given to members of Congress on behalf of members of the healthcare industry, in 2018 alone. This was around half of what was given in 2017. This is clear corruption. If you gave someone millions, or even just thousands of dollars, would you not expect them to carry out what you ask of them? These are clear bribes. This also shows us why the rhetoric is the way it is.
There have been countless stories that have argued that a universal system, is in fact, a worse system monetarily. The fact is that this is of course preposterous. Our current system will cost us $3.3 trillion the government and consumers this year. Over the next ten years a “Medicare for all system” is calculated, in a conservative estimate from the Koch-funded Mercatus Institute, to cost $2 trillion dollars less than our current system. According to another estimate, by the LA Times, the US would save 3.44 percent of overall healthcare spending by 2031. Even with these calculations, most conservatives and even many Democrats say that they worry about how they will pay for this system, though we know that because the government controls our currency, this is laughable, as we can always find money to do whatever we want, see illegal wars, military bases, corporate bailouts, salaries for politicians, and the list goes on.
If people insist on raising the money without just creating it out of thin air as with the issues noted above, there are a number of ways that this system could be financed. The majority of those in favor of a single-payer system have put forward that they think we could pay for this system through taxation. Taxation would simply require a moderate raising of taxes, this could be only on the rich. It could take the form of a higher estate, capital gains, or income tax. Even if this tax were implemented on middle and lower class Americans it would not be the end of the world, even though most Americans grow physically ill over the prospect of any new tax. The reason behind it not being a significant issue is that they would in fact save money. It seems blatantly obvious, but it seems many still have their heads buried in the sand on this issue, but if the United States were to implement a national healthcare system, all out of pocket healthcare costs to citizens would vanish. No more copays, no more deductibles, no more premiums. It would all disappear instantly. This would be a massive albatross lifted from taxpayers necks, even with a thousand dollars a year more in taxes, even with a steep increase in taxes, it would be almost impossible to reach the same level of money spent on taxes that the average American now spends on healthcare.
Even if America was to go against the increased taxing option, there are other alternatives. The government could cut spending in other areas, one significant area is the military. We could reduce the number of military bases we have. Here is where many people, mostly conservative war hawks, scream about defending our freedoms from imaginary boogeymen. However when you look at the numbers its a bit astounding. In 2013, the Pentagon stated that the US has “around” 5000 military bases, “around” 600 of those residing outside of the US. The number of those located abroad is now estimated as high as 800. This number is dumbfounding. The newly founded “Great Satan” of America, Russia, in combination with Britain and France only have 30 military bases combined. The spending on these bases has been estimated to be as high as $100 billion dollars a year, which does not even include the cost of all the illegal wars that we are in and the arms, vehicles, and lives that we spend to fight them. Even if we modestly decreased this cost we could pay for this plan easily.
The all too trite question of “how are we going to pay for (insert any policy that actually benefits the American people” aside, there are other, equally erroneous, complaints about a socialized healthcare system in the United States. One big one that conservatives and corporate democrats like to pull out is that there are super long waiting lines for procedures in countries with national healthcare systems. This is barely true. The fact is, in general, waiting times in counties with “Medicare for All” type systems is much lower. I live in Taiwan, one of the numerous counties with such a system, and I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes maximum to see a doctor, and I have seen my fair share of physicians, being that I broke my collarbone in three places in a motorcycle accident. That being said there are certainly times when you need to wait a bit, but I have also waited in lobbies for close to an hour in the United States. The truth is, to borrow a line from Kyle Kulinski of the popular YouTube channel Secular Talk, counties with nationalized healthcare “ration care based on need, while the US rations on the basis of wealth.” This meaning that in America if you have the money you can see any doctor you want and it will be fast even if it is for an elective procedure, such as plastic surgery. However, in a country with nationalized healthcare, whoever needs to see the doctor the fastest, based on the severity of their medical issue, will see the doctor first.
This is another example of how a Medicare for All type system would same the United States money, especially the people. If people are able to visit the doctor more easily, they will likely go and discover serious health issues much earlier than currently, where many wait until they are in a very serious state of illness. This can be seen in countless examples such as a man who won the lottery, then went to the doctor, as then he could finally afford it, only to find out that he had late stage cancer. He died a few weeks later. If individuals were able to do this we would not only save lives, but also save money as the treatment of early stages of diseases are much more effective and prevent more complications that often end in more money being spent on care. This is not the only example of current practices that are abhorrent, here are countless other examples of issues where we can see the need for this new version of healthcare.
The latest financial security index survey by Bankrate reported that only 38 percent of Americans could afford a $1000 emergency. This is a fact that is unsurprising to most people who have lived in America for any amount of time. From personal experience this would have certainly been the case for me when I was in the United States. By dealing with our current healthcare crisis, Americans would certainly not be totally devoid of this issue, but it would give them more money to deal with such inevitability. It would also get rid of one source of such destructive forces.
To see another contemporaneous issue that shows how disgusting the current US healthcare system is we can look to the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act is named after James Zadroga, a New York City police officer who was killed from a respiratory disease that he contracted because he breathed in dust at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center while he was acting as a first responder. The bill was introduced in early 2009 by the Democrats. They came up against a Republican filibuster that they could not break when the bill came up for a vote at the end of the year. At the end of the next year, comedian Jon Stewart, at the time the host of The Daily Show, committed an entire episode of his show to pushing for the bill. He brought on many first responders to give their thoughts and testimony in regards to the bill.
Only a few days later a slightly cheaper version of the bill, cutting the spending from the initial $7.4 billion down to $6.2 billion, was introduced by Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both Senators from New York. Four days later an even cheaper bill was passed, and total spending was cut down to $4.2 billion. However, this was not the end as in 2015 Stewart once again had to come out of retirement to push the government to renew the bill. Once again he was successful, and the bill was extended 75 more years. While this is somewhat of a happy story because these national heroes got health coverage for potential future medical complications due to inhaling dangerous chemicals and debris from Ground Zero or other injuries they had received. This being said, it also shows the inherent issues with the healthcare system in the United States.
First it shows that American law makers are incredibly corrupt. It lays bare that they do not have their constituency’s best interest in mind. Many would rather let first responders die due to their heroic acts on one of the most horrific days in US history, than give them a small amount of money, relatively speaking. This is due to their corruption. As you can see above law makers take unbelievable amounts of money from giant corporations and lobbyists.
This event also shows that healthcare in the United States is abysmal. Even people who have risked their lives for the country, this includes not only 9-11 first responders, but also our military veterans, do not get the healthcare they deserve. These are the people that representatives, and especially Republicans, claim to care the most about. This can be seen in their virtue signaling, such as in the Colin Kaepernick incident, which staff writer Ari B has written about extensively. This is just another example of the hypocrisy found throughout the US government, it shows how little they care about the troops, and about American citizens more broadly. This is not lost on the rest of the world.
Recently, former United Nations Chief, Ban Ki-moon, called the American healthcare system both politically and morally wrong. He also call on US leaders to put a publicly funded healthcare system in place, calling healthcare a “human right”. This is not a difficult call to make being that America’s healthcare system is the most expensive in the world costing more than $10,000 per person, which tallies up to almost one-fifth of the entire gross domestic product. He continued on to call the system “unethical”.
So it seems clear that the citizens of the United States understand that they need a publicly funded healthcare system. Foreign leaders condemn the current system. So it seems that the only people that are yet to get on board with a “Medicare for All” style system, are conveniently the people who fail to negotiate for drug prices because they take inordinate sums of money from private healthcare companies. So the issue is clear, representatives need to get on board with a national healthcare system, or they need to be removed from office for dereliction of duty. Fortunately, American citizens can call and write their representatives to demand they represent them. Additionally, the midterms are right around the corner, so if you are an American and your representative is unresponsive to your calls for a rational and ethical healthcare system, I would suggest you vote them out of office and replace them with someone who actually cares about the health and well-being of all Americans, not to mention the economy and national debt and deficit.
Staff writer: Jordan F