Shortly before her death, a young woman in my little town named Samantha was packing up her clothes so her family wouldn’t have to, and picking out possessions she wanted displayed at her celebration of life. Sami, who lost her mother to cancer at two years old and went on to raise over $100,000 for cancer research, was dying of a grade four glioblastoma. Sami, a beloved member of my community and Cornell-bound horse lover, passed away not long after her eighteenth birthday.
When I think of healthcare, I think of Sami.
Every day, uninsured or underinsured Americans are dying of terminal illnesses like Sami’s. They are afraid not of their sickness or death, but what treating it will do to them financially. While of course I don’t know Sami’s personal circumstances, I know she was not the only terminally ill eighteen year old in our country, many of whom I’m sure are devastated at the thought of what treatment that could allow them to spend a few more precious months or years with their families will cost. Of course, this doesn’t even touch on the vast number of people who are terribly sick with a treatable illness, and are dying simply because they cannot afford to treat it.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act implemented under President Obama, no one can be denied coverage because of pre-existing condition, and teenagers like Sami might be able to breath some sigh of relief knowing they can stay on their parent’s heath insurance until the age of twenty six. But what happens if their parents are underinsured, and they won’t have their treatments covered anyway? What happens if their insurance deductibles are so high that they aren’t able to afford it? What happens if the treatments become so expensive that they hit the devastating lifetime cap, reaching the limit on the amount of money the private insurance company is willing to spend in order to help? What happens if they turn twenty six, but are too ill to work to pay for health insurance? What if parents aren’t even insured in the first place? These are all questions facing millions of people every single day, and they are questions that Medicare for All would answer.
Rightwing and some leftwing politicians and pundits have not been shy in their criticism of a Medicare for All system. They turn to their constituents or audiences, and tell them that under this system their private health insurance will be taken away.
So, is that true? Yes.
And it will be replaced by something better.
So what exactly is Medicare for All? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Medicare for All is a system adopted by virtually every single developed nation on the planet, where health insurance is controlled by the government, paid for by taxes, and does away with lifetime caps, premiums, coverage denial, and deductibles. Essentially, it is a system that acknowledges our basic human right to healthcare, regardless of class.
Of course, something like this cannot be proposed in the United States today without politicians and pundits on each side of the aisle asking what they think is a clever question: how can we afford that?
According to a new report by Professor of economics Gerald Friedman published by the Hopbrook Institute, Medicare for All would save Americans between 5.5 and 12.5 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years. The libertarian Mercartus Center created a model which found that while the total amount of money that the United States federal government spends on healthcare would go up with a Medicare for All system, the cost to the National Healthcare Expenditure (the total amount that businesses, states, and federal government spend on healthcare) would go down. Projections came in 303 billion dollars lower than what we spend today. How? Because spending by other groups would decrease drastically. Businesses would not have to worry about covering employees, private insurances companies that need to make a profit would no longer be paying for healthcare, and people would no longer be paying out of pocket. Not only that, but the thirty million Americans still uninsured under our current system would be covered. A study conducted by the billionaire, rightwing Koch brothers intended to dismiss the case for Medicare for All found essentially the same exact thing.
I do not want to get too lost in the numbers.
I do not want to be asked “how can we afford it?” when the federal government just voted to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the defense spending budget. I do not want to give merit and validation to rightwing talking points that go against the very core of my beliefs. In my view healthcare is a human right, and the system we have today is unsustainable. As long as there is a person dying because they cannot afford treatment, our current healthcare system remains broken.