Single-payer healthcare has lately risen in the public discourse and is becoming more popular. It has long been debated. In the past, it was dismissed by some as being a government take-over of our healthcare, with suggestive mental images of long lines, rationing, and poor care, when in reality government would only take over the financing which is currently in private insurance hands. This false claim is easily rebuked by pointing to Medicare and Medicaid as the model. Simply expanding one of them to cover everybody would give us single-payer, and we all know that these programs let you chose your doctors and hospitals which are not state-run gulags or internment camps. Another argument that has been brought to bear against single-payer are allegedly high costs, even though our peer nations, which have single-payer healthcare or something similar, beat us in the matter of healthcare costs and healthcare outcomes. We pay more for less. Still, the rumor keeps being spread.
The rumor is such a canard that earlier this month even the the establishment paper known as The New York Times admitted that single-payer health coverage would save us money. Now, the thing to be aware of after California’s postponement of Medicare for All based on “incompleteness of the bill” or the myth that it wouldn’t be affordable, is that paying health coverage through the state budget naturally does mean state taxes will have to go up. However, this shouldn’t scare us. It won’t be a problem, because the rise in taxes will be more than offset by the simultaneous disappearance of our considerably bigger, and rapidly rising, health insurance premiums. Therefore raising taxes to fund universal healthcare is not a problem. In the end we save money.
After a study by the California State Senate claimed that SB562, a bill constituting Medicare for All in the Golden State, would cost more than the entire current state budget, the proposal was promptly put on hold. The real reason, we must suspect, was neither cost, nor the spurious claim that the bill was too incomplete even as additions kept coming in, but politician kickbacks from the insurance industry which enriches a tiny number of CEOs and investors who don’t want their cash cow to disappear and therefore lobby heavily.
What we currently pay in insurance premiums is higher than what we would pay in any taxes increased to fund single-payer, for the simple reason that we are currently paying a very costly middle man (the profit-seeking and care-denying private insurances) plus a lot of billing staff at hospitals and doctor offices whose task it is to wrestle with the tight-fisted insurances on one side and milk patients for as much as possible on the other, and because we don’t negotiate drug and treatment prices. All this wrestling in an arena of unlimited pricing creates a lot of overhead and price hikes.
So, to conclude, with single-payer, taxes would indeed go up, but the savings on health insurance premiums would more than make up for the rise in taxes, even when we would finally cover everyone, as international data linked below clearly indicate. The OECD graphs linked below show better healthcare outcomes, and yet much lower prices, in our peer countries where the government guarantees everybody’s healthcare. So, on the whole we would save. Plus, taxes can be tied to income level, so it is possible to tax more from the rich who can afford more, and less from those who can afford less. This would further help those of us who are struggling financially and are unfairly priced out of health coverage by private insurers whose inflexible premiums don’t take our financial situation into account. Even if single-payer, by insuring the currently uninsured and beefing up current – often very flimsy – insurances, would increase our national healthcare costs, it would therefore still be the moral thing to do, unlike our current practice where we let our grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, or ourselves unnecessarily suffer and die. But, since it is actually a cheaper way to finance healthcare than the current bar fights and shootouts in what I like to call our American Wild West of Healthcare, single-payer is really the most sensible approach.
So, when Republicans are persistently working to repeal Obamacare, condemning the lives of tens of thousands of Americans through insurance loss, pre-existing condition loopholes, lifetime caps, and premium hikes (especially for our seniors) — something the neoliberal Democrats would happily join them in doing if not their reputation as the Obama party would be on the line — let them do it as long as we replace it either with Medicare for All or – what would cover us even better – Medicaid for All. In one fell swoop, we could go from one of the worst healthcare systems in the world (in which good care is available but reserved for the well-to-do) to the very best. Who, besides greedy healthcare profiteers, lobbyists, corrupt politicians, and brainwashed people, can find fault with that?
Below are the NY-Times article and two interesting data sources referred to above, with very telling graphs about how bad and overpriced our healthcare is in international comparison:
- Why Single-Payer Health Care Saves Money – The New York Times
- Health resources – Health spending – OECD Data
- Health status – Potential years of life lost – OECD Data
~ Dirk Droll is the chief editor and writer on Beanstock’s World.