We Must Demand Medicare for All

By now, it should be clear that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats care at all about you. The GOP (Greedy Old Party) has always been known to be the enemy of the regular Joe, but we had been deluded into thinking the Democrats were the Party of the People. Wrong. If you are not among the super-wealthy, they want to kill you.

Republicare, (or what some are calling DonTCare), the proposed program to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), is essentially a gift to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries; and it’s about to kill an estimated 44,000 people a year. Nearly 30 million Americans will lose their coverage by 2019 if the ACA is repealed.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACA is far from optimal for most people. Approximately 29 million are still uninsured. Many still can’t afford the astronomical monthly premiums, deductibles, and copays. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American’s family health care plan cost $18,142 in 2016. Yet, it is still better than what the Republicans are proposing, which is essentially throwing the middle class and poor under the bus for the profits of their corporate sponsors.

The disgusting part of this scenario is that there is absolutely no reason for every American not to have government-paid healthcare. If you are not already aware, every congressperson and their families’ medical care is fully paid by the government. According to an article in The New Yorker, before the ACA, Congress used to have access to a wider range of health plans. However, Section 1312 of the ACA required “Members of Congress and their official staff obtain coverage by health plans created under the Affordable Care Act or coverage offered via an Affordable Insurance Exchange.” By repealing the ACA, they would get their gold-level insurance policies back, rather than having to put up with the insurance the average American gets.

A huge lie has been perpetuated for years by both Republicans and Democrats: We can’t afford universal health care. The truth is that our government can fund whatever it wants by Congress merely agreeing to a budget and the president signing it. No, we don’t have to “find” the money to pay for it because it’s the government that is in charge of creating that money in the first place.

Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats are beholden to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries whose huge donations paid for their election. If the insurance companies were removed from the equation, we could get far better care.

Health Care is Better in Other Industrialized Countries

The US is the only industrialized country without universal health care, yet has the highest health care costs in the world. The problem is the US relies on a for-profit health insurance industry to manage it, and that industry is doing a lousy job. Americans pay three times what the British pay for basic drugs because drug companies are allowed to set their own prices, while at the same time, cheaper generics are frequently not allowed in order to protect the original manufacturer’s patents. Government-paid health plans have been shown to provide drugs at the lowest cost.

US insurance companies also have the highest administrative expenditures in the world, accounting for a quarter of all health care costs. Other countries that have for-profit insurers as part of their system have enacted strict regulations as to what insurers can and cannot do. Administrative costs for insurance in France (which the World Health Organization ranks as having the best healthcare in the world) total about 5%; and Canada, where insurance is government-run, pays about 6%. We are told “France is a smaller country than the US, which is why their health care is better.” Yes, France has more doctors per capita, with approximately 23% more than the US. There is of course a simple solution to that problem: train more doctors!

Imagine walking into your doctor’s office, having a 20-minute visit with him or her, getting a prescription, going to the pharmacy to get the needed medication, and never paying a cent; or being rushed in an ambulance to the emergency room for an aneurysm, where they take you immediately into the operating room for surgery; you have a couple of weeks of in-hospital recovery and are released; again, without paying a cent. Seems impossible, right? Well, that’s what health care is like in most other industrialized countries. Go to France or Britain or Canada, or just about anywhere else, and you will experience a complete lack of anxiety about losing everything you own if you get sick or just plain old dying from lack of care.

No, people aren’t left to die on gurneys in hospital hallways in these countries. Nor are they put on waiting lists for anything but elective surgery. These are myths created to scare you into believing you’re going to get poorer care in a Medicare for All scenario. In fact, the quality of care is far better, when you realize the US ranks 37th in the world for health care, far below other industrialized nations with single-payer health care. We can do better.

First of all, health care should not be centered on making profits for insurance companies. The money the US government would spend on Medicare for all, for example, would actually go to help heal the sick instead of lining the pockets of investors and CEOs in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. It would go to pay for doctors, nurses, hospitals, drugs, medical care facilities, and assisted care, among others. There would be no emphasis on profits for the wealthy. Nor should there be.

Some miserly people say “I don’t want my hard-earned tax dollars to pay for some lazy person’s health care.” Well first of all, your Federal income taxes have absolutely no relation to paying for anything, including Medicare. When you pay your tax bill every April, do you know what happens to that money? The government destroys it. The government notes that you have paid your taxes, and simply removes that dollar amount from your account. They don’t in fact credit their own account because they don’t need to. They are the issuer of the US dollar. It’s like when you use a coupon at the supermarket. You give the cashier the coupon, they give you the discount, then they send the coupons back to the manufacturer, who destroys them upon receipt. Dollars are simply coupons for paying taxes.

Government-paid health care is not a problem because of the increased productivity that would result. With Medicare for All, more people will be put to work in the health care industry, such as doctors, researchers, technicians, etc. The government will get a return on its investment with a healthier population who will be better able to contribute to productivity. Those dollars the government spends to employ an extra doctor will then be spent further into the economy when that doctor goes to buy food for his or her family, or maybe a computer, or a house. Every dollar in the economy must first come from the government. The more the government spends, the better the economy does, to the point of full production. So-called “debt” is not an issue. How can you be in debt to yourself if you are the one creating the money?

The United States is nowhere near going “broke.” The only way it could do that is if everyone in the country decided to stop working, nobody ever bought anything, and we had no natural resources. As long as that is not the case (and with nearly 10% of the population effectively unemployed, it’s very unlikely), the government can pay for whatever it chooses. It does not need to rely on cutting other programs or “raising money through taxes.” Our congresspeople are either unaware of this or they are purposely pulling the wool over our eyes.

Medicare for All

The House of Representatives Bill 676 – Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, sponsored by John Conyers, and cosponsored by 65 other legislators (including not a single Republican, by the way), has been introduced. Check the bill’s website and see if your legislators are listed. If not, call their office or show up in person and demand they support this bill, which is, by far, the simplest and most cost-effective way to provide health care for every American — not just the wealthy few.

H.R.676 will not only provide everyone with comprehensive health care, it will actually be far less expensive than your current monthly insurance premiums. Among other things, Medicare for All would include primary care, emergency care, hospital inpatient care, prescription drugs, long-term care, palliative care, mental health services, chiropractic care, dental care and vision care.

Your health care would not be tied to your employer, so you need not fear leaving a miserable job because you need the health care. No deductibles or copayments would be necessary. This means you would not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for health care before your insurance kicks in.

The current proposal is to have individuals contribute a small sum (Medicare contributions are currently 1.45%) through a payroll tax, although the exact funding has not yet been debated. Given that government can pay for it all regardless of taxes, this should not be an issue. It would certainly be significantly less expensive than what you are paying now for only the most basic care.

This is the only sane option to ensure every American has access to quality health care. You can be sure our Members of Congress will fight tooth and nail to keep us from getting it because it would mean the loss of income from their corporate overlords…the insurance companies who will be kept from getting their slice of the health care pie.

We must remember that elected officials are public servants. This means they are beholden to us and must do as we demand (otherwise we fire them), just like any employee who does not do their job. We must be sure to remind them of this every time they try to screw the American people.

Demand Medicare for All now. Or let them kill you.

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