It shouldn’t be this hard, really. Just about every country in the developed world has some form of universal healthcare, managed by a central authority. Management varies, the degree of supplemental private insurance varies, and the degree of coverage varies, but one factor is common to all the others: it works. Everybody gets coverage, outcomes are better, and the total cost is lower.
The arguments against universal healthcare here in the United States are numerous and generally are all wrong. One of the sillier arguments is that you can’t compare the success in smaller countries with our more populous country. Nonsense, anyone that knows about healthcare coverage knows that the larger the insured pool, the more predictable the costs, and hence the lower the costs.
The most common argument is we just can’t afford it. Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and occasional wannabe presidential candidate proclaimed that “Medicare for all would bankrupt us for a very long time.” Nonsense, it’s not bankrupting European or Asian countries, why should it bankrupt us?
As a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP,) We have, hands down, the most expensive system in the world. For example most European Countries, Canada, Japan, and Australia all have costs in the 10 to 12 percent range, where we spend over 17 %. And they cover everybody, we don’t.
Another argument is that the coverage “there” is not as good as here. It depends on what metric but if you compare the broadest of categories we lose every time. In life expectancy, we don’t even break the top 25. We are far behind the likes of Greece and Canada. How about infant mortality, surely we take care of our neonates. Not nearly as well as most of the others. Our infant mortality rate is twice or more than the rate of Europe. Our rate is even higher than Cuba’s! Maternal mortality rates are even worse. We have on the order of 7 times as many women dying compared to Finland, and about 3 times as many as the average of the rest of the developed world.
Some claim they don’t want some faceless bureaucrat determining their healthcare, but what is the alternative? As a comparison, where do you think the interests lie for an investor in a for-profit insurance company? Why did it take government intervention to ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions?
We can pay for it through our income taxes. Any increase in taxes will be offset by decreases in the need for private insurance. To ease the transition we can introduce it starting with the most important, childbirth. Prenatal/maternal care should be THE pro-life issue, then the children are kept in the system as they age.
At the other end of the system, we should lower the age for the introduction of Medicare. Currently, most healthcare insurance is provided through the workplace. In the gig economy, lose your job – lose your insurance. It is more difficult and takes more time for quinqua- or sexa- genarians to find a job.
A final argument to debunk is that our government just can’t do the job. Nonsense, our government is as good as or better than that of France, or Great Britain or Germany, right? As the most prosperous democracy, we can do this.
Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.