Myths About Single-Payer Health Care
D. S. Mitchell
Honest health care policy experts know that the solution to fix the American health care system is staring us in the face, and it is single-payer, Medicare-for-All. The defeat of the Republican health care legislation put a nail in the coffin of the idea that Americans can’t be sold on Medicare-for-All.
The evidence is clear, Americans believe that every person has a right to health care, irrespective of ability to pay. We as a people, believe that we have an obligation to take care of each other. In fact, there is more momentum for single payer than at any time in our history.
Despite its enormous popularity and unparalleled record of success Republicans are deep in their war on Medicare. New proposals have emerged since the 2016 election that would slash benefits for the elderly and leave older Americans at the mercy of the “for profit” insurance industry.
Paul Ryan Republican Speaker of the House has been vocal in his attacks against both Medicaid and Medicare. He is calling for a voucher program that would transfer more costs on to seniors and leave them at the mercy of the private insurance industry. This action must be stopped. It is not just about protecting our existing Medicare system, it is about ensuring that everyone receives health care as a right. It is a case of “everybody in, nobody out.”
One hundred Americans die everyday from the lack of health insurance. That is over 30,000 unnecessary deaths each year and that number is scheduled to grow steadily over the next decade. This is an American tragedy. With the Republican tax scam now signed into law we will see millions remain uncovered and millions more lose coverage due to increased cost for insurance coverage brought on by the elimination of the insurance mandate. The insurance mandate was a device used by the ACA plan to expand the pool to keep prices down.
Former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell believes Medicare-for-All is the best health care reform, and it is the only health care reform that will cover everyone and control costs. That is why the majority of doctors, nurses and hospitals support a Medicare-for-All system.
What about CIGNA, Wellpoint, United and Humana? Their place in American health care would disappear. They would be replaced with one insurance pool. The Medicare system that serves the elderly so well would be expanded to cover all Americans. “Everybody in. Nobody out.”
How would such changes save money? Upfront we as a country would save at least half a trillion dollars in administrative costs, waste and profits. That sizeable savings would be used to cover everyone.
At birth, everyone would get a health insurance card. This card would give you access to any doctor or hospital in the United States. Free, unfettered choice of doctor and hospital. This is unlike our current practice of allowing health insurance companies to tell us which doctors and hospitals we can see.
As it stands, if you don’t have health insurance–or if you have insurance with sizeable co-pays and deductibles–you’re likely to stay away from a doctor or hospital until the condition becomes critical, and then most likely you will end up in your local ER.
Obvious positives: A Medicare-for-All system would cut drug prices by more than 40%. A Medicare-for-All system would emphasize prevention. “An ounce of single-payer prevention is worth a pound of high-tech cure.” A Medicare-for-All system would be a powerful voice against alcohol, tobacco, junk food and sugary beverages. Furthermore, a single-payer system would store treatment results in a single database, doctors would have access to more complete research data, thereby making it easier to detect the dangers of certain drugs and environmental and workplace exposures.
Our inadequate health care system leaves millions out in the cold. Until every American is covered the body count will continue to rise. Remember at least 100 Americans die daily directly related to their inability to pay for health care. Tens of millions of people face crushing medical bills, even people with insurance are forced to choose between medicine and basic necessities like food and shelter. This is WRONG. Medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States.
Health insurance costs are going to continue to spin wildly out of control. Insurance premiums are doubling every six years, and insurers are continually pushing for patient increases in the share of cost, most definitely through higher deductibles and co-payments they demand from their customers.
Bernie has it right. There can be no compromise with the health insurance industry. Putting the sharks in charge of the goldfish makes no sense. If Paul Ryan has his way that will be the result, seniors will be at the mercy of insurance companies. The ACA tried to keep the insurance companies in the game, however it has become clear to most of us who are following this issue closely that the insurance industry will give less at more cost. Ryan’s voucher program in place of Medicare-for-All would be a disaster.
Remember every day 100 Americans die from lack of health insurance. Every day hundreds go bankrupt from medical bills. Both a national tragedy and a national disgrace. We must support sensible policy and sensible policy is Medicare-for-All. There is an army of lobbyists representing health care and drug industry visiting legislators everyday their central mission is to block Medicare-for-All.
Public Citizen is a citizen action group working on many public policy issues, one of them being Medicare-for-All. In a recent mailer Public Citizen responded to 6 “Myths and Lies” about a single-payer system. I would like to share their responses to the most frequent arguments.
1.) Argument: Single-payer is government-run health care.
Government run health care is the Veterans Administration. Or the British system where the government pays for the doctors and hospitals.
Under Single-payer you get a health care card and you can go to any doctor or hospital in the U.S.
Doctors are not employees of the government. Hospitals stay in private hands. You get free choice of doctor and hospital.
2.) Argument: Single-payer will lead to rationing, like in Canada.
Right now in the United States, the private health insurance companies ration care.
If you don’t have health insurance, you don’t get health care. More than 30 million Americans now lack health insurance.
That’s why 100 Americans die every day from lack of health care.
There are some problems in the Canadian system, but most of what you hear about long lines is health insurance industry propaganda.
Zero, let me repeat that, zero people die every day in Canada due to lack of health insurance.
3.) Argument: Costs will skyrocket under single-payer.
Single-payer is the only health care reform that will save enough money to ensure everyone.
By eliminating the health insurance industry, the country will save $500 billion a year or more in administrative costs and profits.
That money is then used to insure those who lack insurance and fully cover those who are under-insured.
Yes, more people will be seeking health care because they will now have insurance. But they will be taking care of medical problems early, thus preventing more costly treatment later.
4.) Argument: Drugs will be more difficult to get under single-payer.
The drug industry would have you believe that there will be less research and development under a single-payer system.
In fact, much medical research is now funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Under single-payer, this would grow.
Also, drugs will be cheaper under single-payer.
When all patients are under one system, the payer wields a lot of clout.
For example, the VA gets a 40% discount on drugs because of its buying power.
This single-payer buying power is the main reason other countries’ drug prices are lower than those in this country. (*Now you know why the drug industry is so opposed to a potential single-payer system.)
5.) Argument: Single-payer will cover less than the insurance I have now.
For the majority of Americans, single-payer will be a vast improvement.
All medically necessary care would be funded through the single-payer, including doctor visits, hospital care, prescriptions, mental health services, nursing home care, rehab, home are, eye care and dental care.
An enlightened single-payer will also result in a sharp increase in public health funding to prevent disease.
No more bills. No more deductibles. No more co-pays.
6.) Argument: Single-payer will cost me more than I’m paying now for private health insurance.
The majority of Americans will pay about the same or less than they are paying now.
Instead of paying premiums to a private insurance company, most of us will pay a similar or smaller amount in taxes.
So, now, if you are paying $8,000 in premiums for a family of four with a $4,ooo deductible, your yearly liability is at least $12,000.
It is most likely that you will pay less than that in taxes to fund a universal single-payer.
There will be no deductibles or co-pays.
And, you can go to see any doctor or check into any hospital in the United States.
Thanks again Public Citizen for answering a lot of the common questions people have about single-payer. Public Citizen is fighting for single-payer every day. Put them on your donation list.
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(**In my perfect world the health care insurance card would also a national voter ID. A guarantee to get access to voting nationwide. Just my idea to stop the calls of fraudulent voters and the ongoing suppression of the vote.**)