Many politicians and business leaders in America have spread untruths regarding universal healthcare to Americans for many years. They want the average American citizen to believe that they would pay higher taxes if the government were to run our healthcare system. Bernie Sanders (Democrat) is the only candidate running today who supports the expansion of our current Medicaid system to create a government run healthcare system for all Americans. Read more here about how corporate lobbyists oppose universal health care, because they are paid to support our current expensive and inefficient system. Here is an excerpt:
“In 2009, Dean praised single-payer while speaking on Democracy Now, calling the idea “by far the most economically efficient system.” That’s because, as Dean noted at the time, a Medicare-for-all style single-payer system would cut down on bureaucratic overhead and do a better job at controlling prices. An analysis by University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Gerald Friedman found that the single-payer plan introduced into the last Congress, for instance, would save $592 billion, while expanding coverage to all uninsured Americans, regardless of ability to pay. Over 95 percent of households would see higher after-tax income because of the cost controls and elimination of insurance premiums.”
Here is a little Q & A that I created to help you better understand the differences between universal health care and privately run health insurance companies.
The chart (above) compares cost and quality of healthcare in various countries around the world. It shows how quality of care is lesser in the United States while being much more expensive.
- What does universal health care mean and how does it compare to the free market system we have today in America, run by private health insurance companies?
Universal healthcare means that every single person living in the United States would not only be fully covered, regardless of age or pre-existing health conditions, but also that we would all have the same coverage. We already have Medicaid for children and older people, as well as state run programs in which parents pay a small premium based on income for children of low income families who do not qualify for Medicaid. Universal health care means that every single American, regardless of income would qualify for and benefit from these programs which already exist.
- How hard would it be for me to get care under a universal healthcare system? Would I have to wait for years to get an operation I need?
A government run health care system is very simple to use. It ensures that people do not have to worry if they can afford insurance. Under a universal healthcare system, you can see any doctor or go to any clinic or hospital. You do not have to consult a list or waste hours trying to reach a customer service operator trying to find out if a certain specialty is covered or if there is a specialist in your neighborhood. You will not have to wait any longer than you do now to get an appointment. In fact, you will probably be surprised to find out that in countries that already do provide universal health care that your wait times may in fact be reduced.
- Who will pay for universal healthcare? I already have a hard time making ends meet with my current paycheck and deductions.
When you receive your paycheck, under a universal healthcare system, nothing will be deducted for private insurance, because you will not need it. You already pay federal and state taxes, and the universal health care coverage will be paid for by the federal taxes you already pay. When I lived in France, my paycheck detailed the destination of the taxes deducted. For example, some went to retirement, some to healthcare, some to widows and orphans (yes, indeed!). Even if federal taxes were raised by ten or twenty dollars per pay period, it would be much less than the hundreds of dollars you are already paying for health care every month. You would have access to free ambulances and hospital stays. You would be free from worry about being able to stay in good health in order to take care of your family. Social security means being relatively free from worry because as a group, we contribute to our society and in turn, our society helps take care of us and to keep us healthy.
- Are there any hidden expenses under a universal healthcare plan?
You don’t ever have to worry if you can afford care or not. You won’t be thinking, no, I’d better not get that diagnostic test, such as an MRI, because I won’t be able to pay my utility bill or my rent or food. You won’t receive unexpected bills from consultants or for treatments that the receptionist was not sure were covered while you were in the doctor’s or dentist’s office. Universal healthcare allows for extensive preventive care, which greatly reduces expensive and unnecessary treatments later on. Universal healthcare coverage promotes lifelong wellness. When I lived in France, there were free clinics for all children from birth to age 6. In addition, a midwife was sent to my home to check up on my while I was pregnant, free of charge. Doctors still make home visits to patients, if they can’t make it into the office, for a nominal extra fee! My general practitioner charged less on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when you could walk in without an appointment.
- Why don’t we already have a universal healthcare system in the United States?
In America, we live in a system in which the individual is considered much more important than the protection that living in a group or society provides. We collectively scorn social security and have been brainwashed to believe that we all should be able to provide for all of our needs alone and that we should never, ever need any help to take care of ourselves and our families. I don’t know about you, but I am not able to make all of my own clothing, grow all of my own food, or to build a house or provide clean water for my family. These are all services we enjoy because we live in a society. Most of us, including our conservative individualists, cannot provide all of these things alone. Universal healthcare is in the same category as social security. A quality education system is also part of social security, as is taking care of our elderly and veterans. While our wealthy leaders promote individualism, what they don’t say is that they also believe that not all people are created equal. They don’t want all children to have equal opportunities for health, education, long life.
- How does the private sector and private health insurance discriminate against lower income families?
It can’t be denied that we live in a discriminatory society which does not provide the same opportunities for education and for potential to earn income to all children. Conservatives would say that this is our own fault – that if we are not earning enough money to afford the best America has to offer, it’s because we didn’t have enough drive, didn’t try hard enough to succeed. The truth is that millions of Americans work very long hours at multiple jobs with little to no benefits. These Americans cannot afford healthy housing or healthy food, which jeopardizes their own health, I.Q, and that of their children. It is a vicious circle.
- Does too much individualism make it harder for people to be responsible adults today?
An individualistic society which supports the private sector to the exclusion of social programs also implicitly supports social discrimination. Which means, by definition, we are an unequal society in which only a very few wealthy people are able to afford quality housing, education, and healthcare. Most Americans work hard and want to be personally responsible but also debt free. I work hard and pay all of my bills on time, but I simply don’t make enough to save for necessary repairs for my house or for my son’s college education. It is important for people to have hope and to feel that hard work can lead to a better quality of life. No matter how hard I work, I have never been promoted at my job. Today, employers keep all profits for their CEOs. There is no job security. Employees struggle to survive with little to no prospective for advancement. For most Americans today, freedom from financial hardship is a mirage, and individual efforts for the most part, can do little to change that reality. I am a really independent person, and I want to be rewarded and appreciated for the work I do, both morally and financially.
- How would more social programs and support make life better for Americans?
If we leveled the playing field and made sure that all children were provided the same high quality education opportunities, high quality food, and medical care from before birth to adulthood, perhaps we could make a claim that from an equal starting block we could all compete using our individual skills to earn what is needed to take care of ourselves and families. Employers might also consider rewarding employees for good work, creating loyalty and stability.
- What is social security?
We don’t all want or need to be extremely wealthy to be happy, but I do strongly believe that all parents want to provide a nice home free of mold, allergens, which is warm and comfortable. All parents want a good education, nice clothes, and healthy food for their children. All parents want to be able to provide their families with quality healthcare and to be able to take their children on vacation. When we work and contribute to our society using our skills and by paying taxes, we should get this basic access to healthy housing, quality education, quality healthcare, and food. If we invest in social stability, everyone benefits. This is what social security means, and in America today, only the upper middle class and the wealthy can feel socially secure. Everyone else is simply struggling to survive in an environment that has been exploited and which is making us sick.
- Who benefits from the free market healthcare system?
The free market healthcare system only provides healthcare to those citizens who can either afford to purchase a policy or who work for an employer who subsidizes part of the coverage. This means that in addition to the dollars that are deducted from your weekly or bi-monthly pay check, you are also paying each month more than likely several hundred dollars for general health insurance, and vision or dental insurance if you so choose. I have been living in the United States for 12 years since my return from France, where I lived for nearly 18 years. In France, I always had excellent coverage, even working part-time. I didn’t pay a lot of taxes – certainly not more than I pay here. In fact, I had an excellent quality of life there. I could afford to go on vacation, which I cannot do here. I had five weeks of paid vacation each year. I could save money from my paycheck, even when I worked part-time. My savings accounts paid interest, making it easy and motivating to save. In the United States, I work full-time, and I cannot save a penny, even though I am living simply and am earning much more than when I lived in France. My quality of life in America is much lower than what I enjoyed in France. When my son was born, I was encouraged to stay at the clinic (a private clinic outside of Paris), for as long as I wanted. I didn’t have to pay anything for the stay.
- I have insurance from my employer. I don’t need universal healthcare. All of my needs are already met, aren’t they?
After we returned to the United States, for several years, I had no health insurance coverage, because I worked for myself while also working part-time jobs. Later, I worked for a county government in a public library, which provided a choice of two insurance companies with a couple of different options, including HMOs and PPOs. As the years went by, the cost to the consumer (me) kept going up. Where at first there were no deductibles, low copays for only certain services, low emergency room and ambulance copays, and no co-insurance, to maintain the same rates, we saw a very sneaky process be put into place. We were asked to fill out detailed questionnaires about our life habits. We had to sign a no smoking affidavit or be charged an additional $50 per month for insurance coverage. We have no idea what is being done with our private information. Basically, the cost to the consumer is constantly rising in the private sector, and coverage is lessening. Our personal freedoms are being invaded. Free market health care systems are expensive because it is in their interest to constantly raise the prices of healthcare. They are not in the business of promoting health.
- Will the cost of my medications be covered under universal health care? Will I be able to get all of the medications I get today?
Today in America, private insurance companies work with pharmaceutical companies, which aggressively promote medications, many of which are very expensive. The prices of medications are inflated so that the pharmaceutical companies can make more and more money. They are hoping that the health insurance companies will pay for these medications, most of which we don’t need. There is no effort made either by health insurance or pharmaceutical companies to determine whether their products are affordable or even beneficial to the average citizen. These companies are not concerned about the needs and peace of mind of ordinary citizens. If you see them promoting wellness, it is really because they want to cut expenses by having you, the consumer, use less services. They are in business to make money. This is their only objective. Health care is a product, no different than a car or a washing machine. Like an extended warranty, you most likely won’t get what you need from it.
Under a universal healthcare system, pharmaceutical companies will most likely not be advertising their products on television. (Don’t those commercials scare you, with their interminable lists of horrifying side effects?) In any case, the cost of medications will go down, because there will be no private insurance companies to bill. You will be able to get the medications you really need. There will probably be more generics and less brand name medications. And with extensive wellness and preventive care programs, you may be able to get off some or all of your meds and save yourself and the entire system a lot of money.
- How will I know which doctor, lab, pharmacy, or hospital I can go to?
Under a universal healthcare system, you can go to any doctor, lab, pharmacy or hospital. You are covered everywhere you go. No need to consult lists or worry about coverage. Your only concern is to choose a provider you like. Who wants to shop for a health insurance company? If you are like me, you want to spend your time and energy choosing a competent doctor who is personable, and who takes the time to answer your questions. No one can turn you down.
Similarly to homeowner’s or life insurance or auto insurance companies, in America today, private health care insurers are constantly trying to create exclusions and reduce the availability of total health care to their customers. Their systems are incredibly complex and difficult to use. They provide a network of doctors, labs, and only allow you to use certain hospitals, specialists, clinics, and other providers. As a patient, if you change jobs, most likely you will not have the same health insurer and will not be able to enjoy continuity of care. This means that you can no longer see the same doctor if your employer changes, or if the health insurance company decides that your doctor is no longer in their network. In a universal health care system, if you change jobs, you can still keep your same doctor and maintain your medical records and precious relationships with those who care for you and your family.
Will the quality of my healthcare decline if I vote for universal healthcare?
Private health care insurers want you, the consumer, to believe that you will get better care through their services. This is simply not true. When I lived in France, I got fantastic care, and it was extremely affordable. The system was stream-lined, extremely modern, and easy to use. Even twenty years ago, a social security card with a chip allowed you to scan your card at the doctor’s office or pharmacy so that your reimbursement would go directly into your bank account. The doctor or pharmacy would be paid up front, by you, the patient, and they didn’t have to worry with or wrangle to get paid with complicated coding systems and nightmarish bureaucracies. Universal healthcare is much easier for doctors and healthcare providers to use. They simply can’t charge as much as they do now, but their lives and our lives would be so much easier with universal health care.
- Which of our presidential candidates for 2016 supports universal health care?
Bernie Sanders is the only candidate (Democrat) who supports universal health care, because he believes that great healthcare is a right and not a privilege. He, like me, believes all children and adults deserve to receive worry-free health care in exchange for the work they contribute to our society to make all of our lives better. Voters need to know that universal healthcare is a great system which is much less expensive than what we have now. It would give us great care at a low price. Bernie Sanders wants all Americans to know that we would have a lot more money to take home from our paychecks if we had a universal healthcare system. Money that we could spend on other things.
Hillary Clinton does not support universal healthcare, and if she were to be elected, we would still have the same struggles with the rising costs of healthcare. We would see higher copays, deductibles, and lesser coverage if we continue on the road of private industry and corporations controlling areas such as health care, education, pharmaceuticals, and food industries.
- Why don’t conservative Christian candidates and elected officials support universal healthcare?
Good question! I don’t understand myself why many Evangelicals and people who call themselves Christians support wealthy conservatives, who have no political will to help reduce poverty and give more people opportunities to get an affordable education, quality healthcare and food, or support environmental protection. You would think that people who wish to emulate Jesus would care for the poor and support kind and compassionate treatment of those who are the object of discriminatory treatment in our country. As we become aware as a nation that a huge gap is growing even wider between the poor and the rich, it would seem that all political factions would finally stop squabbling and join together to raise all America up and put people and the preservation of our environment for future generations above financial gain.
- I’m a millennial and I’m really worried about my future…whether I will even be able to move out of my parent’s house and have my own family. My student loan debt is overwhelming. Why doesn’t our government care about us?
I have a lot of young co-workers who are in their early twenties. I see how young people are concerned about their futures. Like Bernie Sanders and President Obama, I encourage you to speak up and become actively involved in government and social issues. If you want to live in a country which reflects your values and concerns, you need to be an active voice so that you can be heard. There are millions of young people such as you who are experiencing the same worries about the future. The system in place today is not immutable. You can be the change you want to see. Cliché, but true! Change will happen, because so many people want and need it.
Today, large corporations are running our country, making housing, education, healthcare, and food either difficult to access, too expensive, or of poor quality (our food and water – because of excessive use of pesticides and other chemicals). These corporations, their CEOs, and their lobbies have extensive power over our law-makers today, because we allow them to. Their profits do not guarantee the stability and growth of our economy. It is the well-being, number of educated people, and health of the majority of citizens who can contribute their talents to our economy that determine the stability and potential for growth of a country and society. If we are not all potential beneficiaries of a system, then that system does not work.
If we speak up, refuse to purchase the countless unhealthy products that are for sale in our stores, demand different products (such as affordable organic food and beauty products, affordable quality secondary and higher education, universal healthcare, green energy and jobs in environmentally supportive fields, we will create that change together.