U.S. Healthcare Reform: For or Against?

Should the US implement a single-payer healthcare system?

Zack Davis ‘21
Staff Writer

One of the biggest issues in modern American politics is healthcare. Common political discourse surrounding healthcare has now evolved past simple improvements or cuts to existing systems such as Medicare or Medicaid and is expanding to include congressional proposals of public options and single-payer systems.

America’s multi-payer system is not working. About 28 million Americans are currently uninsured, and when our drug prices and medical procedures are an average of four times more expensive than their counterparts in other nations, out of pocket expenses for these Americans can become financially crippling.

Those that do have healthcare still pay inconsistent fees, have relatively high deductibles and premiums, and struggle to pay out of pocket. As healthcare is often tied to occupational compensation, those with access to strong benefits have a large advantage over others in healthcare costs and effectiveness.

A single-payer system, or “Medicare for All,” as known in the US, would substantially contribute to solving many of these issues that we see in multi-payer healthcare.

Firstly, it would simply be cheaper, both for the government and for individual Americans. When one entity, in this case the government, controls the healthcare of an entire population, its ability to influence pharmaceutical and procedural medical prices is significantly greater than hundreds of individual, competing companies.

This concept, called collective bargaining, recognizes the government’s ability under a single payer system to direct, absolute and unrestricted, the tax dollars of hundreds of millions of Americans, forcing corporations to accommodate the necessities of the American people rather than the other way around.

According to a study by Yale epidemiologists, Medicare for All would reduce US healthcare spending by around 13%, a general conclusion reached by thousands of other studies.
Decoupling healthcare from occupation would also reduce the restrictions and lack of job mobility felt by so many Americans, as it is exceedingly difficult and sometimes self-destructive to leave a job while receiving healthcare from that same source.

In addition to improved costs, job mobility, and reduced corporate market share, we see that a single-payer system would have massive positive benefits for the health of all Americans. If everyone is insured, people are much more likely to go to the doctor for checkups and to address small concerns.

This pays dividends in costs, as it allows medical professionals to recognize and treat major diseases and health problems before they even begin and become exceedingly expensive. A single-payer system will save individual lives and reduce the population’s susceptibility to contagious disease, as symptoms will be caught and treated much quicker, reducing transmission rates.

Max Rosenberg ‘21

Healthcare has been a cornerstone of political issues for years. Of the timeless debates during an election year, healthcare is one of the foremost. However, progressives in the Democratic primaries for this election cycle have raised a new proposal – universal single-payer health care.

From a purely compassionate standpoint, it makes sense that we should be providing full and universal taxpayer-funded health care to make sure the populus is safe and protected regardless of their socioeconomic status. However, sadly, when you account for some of the more prudent issues, universal or widespread basic healthcare becomes increasingly infeasible.

From a fiscal perspective, this expectation is nothing short of insane. In 2020, even in the face of a pandemic where the government had historical levels of funding to provide relief, our federal budget was $6.6 trillion according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Regarding the implementation of universal single-payer healthcare, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget remarks, “[These] proposals have been estimated to cost the federal government roughly $28-32 trillion over a decade,” which is approximately a 50% increase in our annual budget, money that America would be hard pressed to find. Estimates say that even if we raise income taxes to their highest points in decades, and implement new taxes (such as Elizabeth Warren’s troublesome ‘wealth tax’), we would still be short when it comes time to pay the bill.

In addition to the straight cost of implementing this system, let’s not fail to consider the other ramifications. Just to consider some of the larger issues, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the private insurance field employs 2.8 million Americans, most of whom would find themselves newly unemployed.

This is also all assuming our federal government, an institution that is infamous for gridlock and bureaucracy, can successfully implement such a system. While many Loomis students might not remember, in 2014, then-President Obama’s much anticipated launch of the ‘healthcare.gov’ website to promote and be an integral part of his newly legislated Affordable Care Act (a website said to cost upwards of $840 million) failed miserably, with only six people actually able to register on day one. If this was a test run for the launch of a new, even more expansive, healthcare system, then that is something I will have to pass on.