Why Healthcare Needs to be an American Right
GETTY IMAGES VIA POLITICO
With the delayed vote on Trumpcare in the Senate, America has reached a critical point in the healthcare debate. Disabled patients on Medicaid protested Jun. 22 outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Prior to release, most discussion on Trumpcare in the Senate was kept secret. Based on Quinnipiac polling, Trumpcare has an approval rating of 17%. Single-payer healthcare, which would provide Medicare to all citizens, has an approval rating of 55% according to Vox. This all begs the question: why does the United States not have Medicare-for-All?
For years, America has failed to measure up to the healthcare outcomes of other developed countries. In a 2000 report by the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranked 37th in healthcare performance. In contrast, France, which has universal healthcare, ranked 1st. After the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, there were still many gaping problems with American healthcare. Many people opt out of Obamacare, preferring to pay the penalty rather than continually increasing insurance premiums, as stated by BBC. This is turn discourages insurance companies like Aetna from participating and ultimately drives up the cost of private health insurance. According to U.S. News, America under Obamacare pays more for healthcare and receives worse outcomes than modern countries with universal health coverage.
President Donald Trump seemingly recognized that universal healthcare is better than Obamacare. Trump said May 4, “You have better healthcare than we do,” to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a New York gala. Like France, Australia has a single payer system. Trump’s plan, on the other hand, is massive deregulation of the healthcare industry. Many politicians are troubled by Trumpcare’s lack of protections for Medicaid recipients, Planned Parenthood users, and those with pre-existing conditions. According to Slate, Sen. Dean Heller cannot vote for a bill that enables premium increases and “takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans”. This makes Heller the 5th Republican senator to oppose the bill. The Congressional Budget Office reports on House and Senate versions of Trumpcare justify his concerns. The CBO reported Jun. 26 that 22 million Americans would go uninsured by 2026 and Medicaid would lose $772 billion under the Senate version of Trumpcare. This is a mild improvement over the passed House version, which would displace 23 million Americans off their insurance and cut $834 billion from Medicaid according to the May CBO report. The only beneficiaries of Trumpcare are the wealthy since both versions repeal tax hikes implemented by Obamacare.
Trumpcare proves that a capitalist healthcare system cannot work, as those who need it the most get left behind with deadly consequences. The power of the healthcare industry in government is the main obstacle to universal healthcare. Forbes reported that the industry spent $102.4 million lobbying lawmakers and the Chamber of Commerce during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. This ultimately keeps private insurers the only option in the healthcare market. To counter the draconian healthcare bill, state legislatures have unsuccessfully pushed for progressive healthcare reforms. On Jun. 2, Nevada lawmakers passed A.B. 374, the first attempt at Medicaid-for-All. It was vetoed Jun. 16 by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sandoval defends his decision as the bill was “an undeveloped remedy to an undefined problem” according to the Los Angeles Times. According to the LA Times, the Medicaid-for-All proposal would have been implemented in January 2019, if it had been signed. The wait period would have allowed the Nevada legislature and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to determine the costs and methods for delivery prior to the program taking effect.
Sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, is rightfully disappointed: “With this veto, Governor Sandoval has actively decided to veto a right that all Nevadans should have.”
Medicare-for-All was also halted in the California legislature. Assemblyman Anthony Rendon argued, “This was not a bill, this was a statement of principles,” as quoted in the LA Times. A point that critics often make against a single payer system is the cost. According to Rendon, it would take $400 billion to implement single payer in solely California. However, a major reason why U.S. pays so much for healthcare already is because Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. With the exception of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, this law bars the federal government from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies for citizens on Medicare. Drug products such as EpiPen and Celebrex costs several times more in the U.S. than in Canada and other industrialized nations as a result.
Universal healthcare is essential in the fight for fairer drug prices. “Medicare is the largest buyer of drugs in the country, if not the world”, says Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Expanding the amount of Medicare recipients would only increase the government’s leverage over pharmaceutical companies during negotiations. Other associated costs would be covered by raising payroll, income, and estate taxes. Politifact says that an 11.7 percent payroll tax would pay for single payer healthcare, based on estimates by the National Institute of Health Care Reform. Americans should remain hopeful.
Trumpcare is unlikely to pass due to the resistance of Democratic Senators and few lawmakers have proposed universal healthcare instead. Rep. John Conyers proposed H.R. 676, Medicare-for-All in the House. Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for universal healthcare in the Senate. Democrats have made separate attempts to lower drug prices such as repeal of the ban and drug importation amendments. Democrats should no longer just defend Obamacare. They, along with America, need to provide a strong alternative to Trumpcare so that every American has the right to a healthy life.