By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
The sum total of evidence presented over the last few years has proven, over and over again, that what Americans understood to be the best way to organize a Healthcare system is in fact false. A Privately-owned, For-Profit Healthcare system increases the cost of Healthcare and prescription drugs with no limits. It incentivizes price-gouging at every level, as each and every facet of the Healthcare sector sees the prices of their requirements continuing to rise due to the sheer greed of the others at the top of Healthcare’s respective industries.
The current system forces patients to attempt to compensate for the rising costs of Healthcare including Private insurance, prescription drugs, hospital visits and medical procedures with absolutely zero regard for the expenses that make up the rest of that patient’s needs. It forces businesses to cut back on increasing wages, hiring more workers, offering greater benefits, or sometimes expanding their enterprise. Healthcare is the single most expensive necessity in the United States today because of the nature of its profit-driven infrastructure.
Politicians take generous sums of money from the Healthcare industry in order to keep their profit margins as big as possible. This has led to virtually the entire US Government, with very few exceptions, shunning the American public’s demand for a single-payer Universal Healthcare system – commonly referred to as Medicare For All – because such a program would mean billions in lost campaign donations due to the absence of profit margins in the Healthcare sector.
What these politicians fail to understand is that by implementing a single-payer Healthcare system that is Universal (meaning it covers everybody), they open the door for more generous donations both from other industries who would then be free from the predatory price-gouging of For-Profit Healthcare industry shareholders, as well as from American voters who would also have a lot more money to their names; and that’s all without even touching the issue of the Minimum Wage! Over time, under a Medicare For All system, Americans would be making more money and would be able to go to any doctor, hospital, specialist, or pharmacy of their choosing anywhere in the country.
This is one of the more under-discussed topics that we hear from Universal Healthcare’s detractors, that Medicare For All would limit their freedom of choice. As anyone who lives in a country with Universal Healthcare will tell you, this is fundamentally not true; in fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. A Medicare For All system fully expands, and thereby solidifies Americans’ freedom of choice, as they are no longer bound to the heavily restrictive In-Network programs that exist under the current For-Profit system. This freedom of choice presents the country’s current contingent of Healthcare professionals with an entire nation of patients in need of care, which by extension creates the need for more Healthcare professionals in each of Healthcare’s various fields.
To a Capitalist, this means Competition, and Competition means prices have to be competitive as well. This gives the Public greater bargaining power and since the people elect their Government officials, the people can use the power of their vote to carefully monitor and judge the state of their Healthcare system. So when Medicare For All detractors complain about “Government-run Healthcare”, they’re either not being entirely truthful, or they’re just plain ignorant.
Another argument coming from Medicare For All detractors is that we don’t need it because America already has the best Healthcare system in the world. Again, this is a complete fallacy and there is more than enough evidence to back it up. A general start to debunking this absurd claim is to simply examine every other industrialized nation with a single-payer Healthcare system. One exception to the rule is Switzerland, where Healthcare is Privately run, but because of the country’s Social Democratic process, under Swiss law Private Health Insurance companies must be Non-Profit. This keeps the cost of Healthcare in Switzerland minimized and the Swiss public’s contingent of people who worry about medical bankruptcy extends to a mere 3%.
But in every other developed country, medical bankruptcies are nonexistent. Since WWII, European nations realized the importance of providing Universal Healthcare to their citizens. Countries like Italy, Spain, France, UK, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Iceland, even the likes of Vietnam and Cuba, are all outpacing the United States on the issue of Healthcare, and they all have one version or another of a single-payer Universal Healthcare system.
Here comes the most irritating and repetitive question about this issue: “How do we pay for it?” Let’s start by stating what should be the obvious: We’re already paying for it, nearly twice over. The most recent study from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that Medicare For All would save the country $5.1 Trillion over 10 years. It’s not that we can’t pay for it, it’s that we can’t afford NOT to pay for it. Medicare For All saves money by cutting out the investors. It’s the investors who artificially drive up the cost of Healthcare by using their power to arbitrarily demand greater returns on their investments for whatever reasons they want. They also add no value to the Healthcare sector, whatsoever. They come in between patients and their doctors and they take their cut, which is how they artificially inflate the cost of Healthcare. Cut out the investors, you save on the cost of Healthcare. There’s also the issue of the legalization of drugs.
Marijuana legalization at the national level is all-but inevitable at this point, and there has also been pushes for the legalization of things like Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms), or even all drugs. Opening up the options on the drug market creates the necessary competition to reduce costs and thereby lowering the overall cost of a Universal Healthcare system, and because of the Public’s more direct control over the system itself as they are able to vote out any Government official who would seek to subvert and corrupt their Healthcare system, Government officials are incentivized to act in accordance with the well-being of the general public and NOT in the interest of higher profits.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American public is finally beginning to understand what those Europeans did, post WWII: Healthcare must be made a fundamental human right. How we get there is still an open question, since most of our elected officials either take money from the Healthcare industry, or they’re so enamored with American Exceptionalism that they can’t even conceive of anything better than what exists now.
The pandemic exposed everything that’s wrong with the American Healthcare system. The public has been demanding immediate action since even before the pandemic. But since Capitalism doesn’t incentivize preparation for pandemic because it’s not considered profitable, America was left wide open for what could effectively be described as The American Black Death. Nearly a year into the pandemic, and Congress STILL won’t do anything to fix the underlying problem that is our For-Profit Healthcare system. This is a moment where the Government had an opportunity to live up to its name and its responsibilities to the people, and it failed spectacularly; not because they couldn’t do it, but because their religious devotion to Capitalism demanded it.
Capitalism does not classify Healthcare as a human need. It views it strictly as a commodity, just as it does everything and everyone else. Healthcare is a necessity for sustaining human life, just as much as food, water and shelter. Despite this reality, elected officials and the Capitalist forces that materially support them are thoroughly dedicated to ensuring that they themselves have the ability to prosper, while the rest of the population is left to its own devices – of which this upper echelon of power will ultimately swoop in and seize any potential profit-making idea or product from the general population as they see fit, leaving the victims with no legal recourse. If the public were to protest for Medicare For All en mass, the Government would simply “release the hounds.” Law Enforcement, Federal Agents, “Patriot” militia groups, they would all be called to arms to squash this legitimate challenge to a long-standing Capitalist institution that has made so many in positions of power wealthy at the expense of the sick and the dead. The Capitalist system we have is evil, because it incentivizes Evil. Even during a pandemic, the Government will never set aside their blind profit-driven ambitions and do the right thing.
These politicians need to understand that as Americans continue to die from COVID, so too do their own constituents, which reduces their voting block as well as their favorability with the voters. But if we were to all die and the politicians and their donors remained, it’s perfectly obvious that they wouldn’t care. They would simply look to other countries to “do business” with, and they wouldn’t have to worry about Democracy anymore. So ultimately, our extermination is mere collateral damage to them. This is how Capitalism conditions its denizens to think. Capitalism is evil. It may have started out as a better alternative to Feudalism, hundreds of years ago, but it has run its course and its funeral is long overdue.
Another fallacy these politicians peddle is the notion that the Government has to “budget” like a common household and that’s why Americans will never have Medicare For All. This is a lie. Our tax dollars fund the Government. The American public expects certain things to be done with their money, in their name, that would benefit them. The public votes. The public pays taxes. The public is supposed to be served by the politicians they elect to represent them. As we all know by now, that social contract was burned decades ago.
But if the Government can use our tax dollars for illegal and offensive wars, for trillions in Wall Street bailouts, for subsidies to multinational corporations, they can certainly use OUR MONEY to provide Healthcare to all Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic showed just how fragile American Capitalism really is, how it could all come crashing down because of a single, microscopic organism. One argument that detractors of Medicare For All use in light of the pandemic is that our hospitals would have been so overwhelmed that we would have piles of dead bodies everywhere, that hospitals and cities would go bankrupt.
Newsflash (since they weren’t actually paying attention anyway): All of that has already happened, and is continuing to happen, under our current For-Profit system … only it’s far worse than it would have been under Medicare For All because thousands of Americans are now stuck with medical bills they’ll never be able to pay. Medicare For All would have rendered that prospect nonexistent. Yes, hospitals and doctors’ offices would have been overwhelmed, but we’re in a pandemic. That was going to happen, anyway.
This brings up another question from detractors, which is the question of “Who decides who gets the care and who doesn’t?” Prioritization of care in a Universal system is based on Need rather than Profitability. If a doctor has two patients, one with a sprained ankle and one who’s been shot, in a Universal Healthcare system the patient who’s been shot gets the care first because their need for the care is more urgent. Under America’s For-Profit system, given this same scenario, if the patient with the sprained ankle had the ability to pay and the one who was shot didn’t, the patient with the sprained ankle would be given top priority while the patient with the gunshot wound would have to wait … maybe long enough to die. This is another reason why instituting a Medicare For All system is so important for the country, moving forward. Basing the value on someone’s life on their ability to pay shows how little that person’s life is valued in the system in which they live. It’s a cruel and inhumane form of means-testing and just like markets, it always favors those with the most money.
We need Medicare For All. We won’t get much farther as a nation without it. Our lives are held hostage by people with a religious belief in a Capitalist system that treats human life as an expense. Such conditions in other developed countries are unfathomable, yet they are seen as commonplace in the US. Will we get Medicare For All? CAN we get it? Why would we get it? How would we get it? The only question I can answer is the second one: Yes, we can get it. Why we would get it is obvious. Will we get it and how we’ll get it is still up for debate, and it’s not going to be easy with the odds so heavily stacked against the interests of human life. One thing’s for sure: We MUST have Universal Healthcare moving forward. Without it, we’re doomed to continue down the road to self-destruction, so we can’t take No for an answer.