EDITORIAL: The urgent need to provide Medicare for all
People should want to give up their private insurance plans.
Employer-provided health insurance has become so expensive that people quit their jobs to qualify for Medicaid. Around a million Americans dropped their coverage as premiums rose in 2017. Women with breast cancer delay care because of high deductibles.
Unmanageable medical expenses drive record numbers of senior citizens into bankruptcy. A young diabetic is “alive today not because of insurance companies but despite them.” A college basketball coach waited in pain for two months before his insurer approved tests that diagnosed his cancer, during which time he became paralyzed.
If an insurance denial, delay, or surprise bill hasn’t touched you yet, just wait. It has probably affected one of your relatives, co-workers, or friends.
Everyone cares about having their choice of doctors and hospitals. No one really cares who writes their health insurance policy. People are fond of their doctors, not of the providers. We all need dependable health-care coverage at an affordable price. That is rapidly disappearing in the private marketplace.
In an August Business Insider poll, 59% of respondents said they would switch their employer-based health insurance to Medicare for All as long as it meant no change in coverage. Finally, the question was properly asked.
An even better question would be whether they would switch if they would get substantially better coverage, including prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing care, with no deductibles or co-pays. And that they could keep their doctors and go to any hospital. And that they and their employer would pay less for this than they currently do.
This is the guarantee of genuine Medicare for All. So why isn’t everyone demanding it?
First, they simply don’t know about it. Poll after poll after poll reveals that many Americans have either never heard of Medicare for All or don’t know enough to form an opinion.
Others recoil at the mere idea of a government-financed program, although as they approach 65, most are eager to get on Medicare. Others fear that these promises are just too good to be true and would rather stick with a familiar, if worsening, private insurance plan.
These promises are true. Every other modern country offers universal health care for its citizens for about half of what we spend per capita. They don’t wait in long lines or have rationed care. Their health outcomes, including life expectancy, are better than ours.
If you want a familiar plan, there’s Medicare. It’s highly popular and efficient, with a 50-year track record. Medicare for All would be a dramatic improvement in that program, while eliminating the profound administrative waste and rationing that are part and parcel of the private insurance industry.
What’s the downside? None, unless you are a highly-paid insurance company executive. We’ve been wasting billions each year on a uniquely inefficient system that no serious businessperson can defend. We truly could have comprehensive, permanent, privately-delivered health-care coverage at lower cost with Medicare for All. It would benefit families and businesses. There’s not a single valid reason not to do it.
So, of course, you want to give up your current health-care plan. It’s failing you, your employer, and your family. It’s failing the country. It’s rapidly becoming unaffordable. It’s restricting your choice of doctors and hospitals. It’s benefiting insurance executives and shareholders at the expense of your health and pocketbook. For your benefit, I hope you can give it up soon.