Too Many Continue to Suffer
by: Kenzi Schmidt
According to the Census Bureau, 27.5 million people in the United States live without health insurance. That’s about 8.5% of the population. These numbers may seem small on a larger scale, but that’s 27.5 million lives. Each one of those lives is equally complicated in a myriad of ways, and each one is equally deserving of the basic right to receive health care. A healthcare system that allows health insurance to be so expensive, and that fails to provide insurance to so many is broken and in need of change.
Currently, those without health insurance in our country are forced to live in fear of medical emergencies, and/or are unable to go to the doctor for fear that they will be crushed by the weight of medical bills. Some people who are insured by their employer are now seeing an increase in contributions to their health insurance costs, and more restricted coverage. Another large number of people are caught in the middle, still making too much money to qualify for Obamacare (or Medicaid) and forced to buy health insurance on the open market, which they struggle to afford. They are faced with a sort of health insurance purgatory; exorbitant premiums, high deductibles and restricted provider networks.
By switching our healthcare system to be single payer (medicare for all, in other words), we could make sure that every citizen, no matter how much money they make, would have access to potentially life saving health care and wouldn’t have to go bankrupt to get it.
But the ‘medicare for all’ conversation is often shrouded in a sense of unfamiliarity and misinformation. Many of the assumptions people make about medicare for all center around the program taking us ‘too close to communism.’ This scares many in older generations, and for good reason; the world of their childhood was very different from ours. They grew up in a time when fear of the Soviet Union and another world war was in the forefront of the political mind. They see the ideologies of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as the beginning of a descent into communism.
To clear this up, medicare for all would take us closer to socialism, not communism. And though the two ideologies are intertwined, one does not equal the other. In other words, all forms of communism are a form of socialism, but not all forms of socialism are a form of communism.
A single payer healthcare system differs from socialized medicine and communist medical care in a few fundamental ways: it doesn’t mean that health care itself is provided by the government, (like VA hospitals or the way healthcare in the UK works) and it doesn’t mean that you lose access to your current providers. Private medical groups, private hospitals and doctors would not be put out of business if a single payer system were implemented. It would simply mean that people’s medical expenses would be paid for by the government (the single payer). People could go to whomever they wish to receive care and be guaranteed that they can pay for it, no matter how much money they make.
Whether you agree with me on this topic or not, I hope we can all acknowledge those 27.5 millions lives and the fact that they may be struggling. The way our healthcare system works right now does not help them, despite the fact that we have implemented programs like Medicaid. We need to do more, and we can do more; we just need to talk about it, even if it makes us uncomfortable, because those 27.5 million deserve better.