Free Health Care,
Like 23 Other
The health of our people is incredibly important in our economy, yet 33% of Americans and 43% of low-income Americans say they didn’t fill a prescription, get a recommended medical test or treatment, or see a doctor when they were ill because of the cost.
Out of the top 30 richest countries per capita, only the US doesn’t provide health care for all its citizens. This kills 45,000 people a year and ends up disabling millions of people because of poor care or late diagnoses.
Sick people have little choice but to get treatment, but they have no access to price information and hospitals charge arbitrary, often wildly inflated and incredibly unfair prices. Sadly, the working poor pay or owe far more for the same treatments than hospitals charge rich people’s insurance companies!
Most Americans, doctors, nurses, and unions want Medicare for All—a bill often introduced in Congress that would save many trillions of dollars and create more jobs. It would provide doctor, hospital, long-term care, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drug, and medical supply costs to everyone for the same amount of money we are spending now. And patients would have free choice of doctors and hospitals and no copays or deductibles.
Our health industry lobbies more than any other industry to preserve the status quo. Regular doctor visits save money by preventing health care problems. Americans work more hours than the people of any other rich nation. We deserve free health care.
Free Health Care, Like 23 Other Countries (Full Text)
Deamont Driver, a 12-year-old boy whose family had no insurance, died when a tooth infection spread to his brain. Because his family couldn’t afford an $80 tooth extraction that doctors say would have saved his life, he had to have 2 operations and 6 weeks of hospital care before he died, costing us taxpayers $250,000.
Frederick Holliday and his wife Regina had two small children but couldn’t afford health insurance despite working 6 part-time jobs. By the time Fred found a full-time job with health insurance and went to a doctor for pain, he had kidney cancer that had spread to his stomach, bones, and lungs. He died at 39 years old.
Nearly 45,000 people die every year in the US because they can’t afford health care. Millions more end up disabled because of poor care or late diagnoses. Nearly half of us describe paying for basic health care as a hardship. Now the biggest business for collection agencies is medical bills.
The health of our people is incredibly important in our economy, yet we waste a massive amount of money on twice as many health insurance workers as doctors providing care, unnecessary paperwork, marketing, massive executive salaries, lobbyists, and insurance and pharmaceutical profits.
As a result, 33% of Americans and 43% of low-income Americans say they didn’t fill a prescription, get a recommended medical test or treatment, or see a doctor when they were ill because of the cost.
Sadly, in America, having great health care is an illusion, unless you are wealthy. Most Americans who declare bankruptcy due to health problems had health insurance when they got sick or injured. Very often, they lost their health insurance when they could no longer work.
Out of the top 30 richest countries per capita, only the US doesn’t provide health care for all its citizens. All health care is free in Canada, England, Scotland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Brunei, and Russia.
All these countries above plus Iceland, Italy, Norway, Israel, Cyprus, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Cuba offer free hospitalization and surgeries to all their citizens. Italy has free doctor visits, too. Over 100 nations are working to give health care to all their citizens.
Countries with small copays for doctors, diagnostic tests, and medicines include Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. All family doctor visits are free in the Netherlands.
Many countries have very affordable yearly caps, so chronic illnesses will not burden families. For example, Sweden only charges $12 for doctor visits and $12 a day for hospital stays, with a maximum yearly limit of $123. France gives free care to low-income adults and anyone with a chronic illness. Germany caps costs for those with chronic illness at 1% of their income.
In America, hospitals charge arbitrary, often wildly inflated, and incredibly unfair prices that should be illegal. Sadly, those least able to pay—the working poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid, don’t have insurance, or can only afford insurance with poor coverage and also those with insurance who have exceeded their limits—very often pay or owe far more than the hospitals would charge Medicare or insurance companies.
Sick people have little choice but to get treatment, but they have no access to price information and face far more unpredictable billing in health care than in any other industry. For example, the lipid panel, basic blood work measuring cholesterol, costs anywhere from $10 to $10,169 in California! The basic metabolic blood panel varied from $35 to $7,303!
The cost of an appendectomy with no complications in hospitals in California ranged from $1,529 to $186,955. One hospital in Dallas treats simple pneumonia for $14,610, while another one there charges over $38,000. Replacing a joint averages $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Oklahoma but averages $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, California.
Studies show a single payer system like an expanded, upgraded Medicare for All negotiating drug prices would save $650 billion a year and many trillions over the coming decades while providing much more comprehensive coverage.
Physicians for a National Health Program believes Medicare for All would provide comprehensive doctor, hospital, long-term care, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drug, and medical supply costs to everyone for the same amount of money we are spending now. They also say patients would have free choice of doctors and hospitals and no copays or deductibles.
A study by two nursing associations found a single payer system would create 2.6 million more new good-paying jobs in the US, even after subtracting all the lost insurance jobs, and stimulate the economy $100 billion in wages and $317 billion in new business and public revenues.
Most Americans, doctors, nurses, and unions support Medicare for All. The Medicare for All Act has been introduced in every Congress since 2003 and both doctor’s and nurse’s organizations, 26 international unions, and over 461 unions total support the bill, along with many other organizations. The bill even provides job retraining and placement for those who lose jobs in the health insurance industry.
Private insurance companies waste up to 30% of your health care dollars on administrative costs, while Medicare only spends 2 to 3% on such costs. And Medicare does this while taking care of the sickest people—the elderly and people with disabilities. Covering the rest of us is easier and cheaper.
Why should hospital CEOs make up to $15 million a year, when medical journal JAMA found CEO pay at hospitals has no relationship to quality of care or even profits? Certainly doctors are more valuable and their pay ranges from only $200,000 to $440,000.
Why should pharmaceutical CEOs make up to $93 million while desperately sick people go without needed medicines because of their price gouging? In Germany, laws restrict the pay of healthcare executives to a reasonable level.
Insurance companies make rules that exclude coverage and kill many people in order to make huge profits for the CEO, senior executives, and stockholders. Why should health insurance CEOs make up to $19 million for often refusing care, perhaps by calling an electrocardiogram “not indicated” and refusing to pay $30 to the requesting doctor?
People often have to fight with their insurance companies to get a medical procedure or medicine covered. Even after you verify that a hospital or procedure is covered, you can still get a bill for thousands of dollars because certain doctors, departments, devices, drugs, or implants there weren’t covered.
Most states don’t require hospitals to inform you if their medical staff are not covered by your insurance. Very often, you won’t even know which specialists will work with you and the doctor doesn’t know what is covered. Even large insurance companies often don’t have any in-network emergency room doctors in their in-network hospitals.
Nonprofit hospitals often make massive profits. They pay their CEOs salaries up to $6 million. Despite these hospitals paying no taxes as a charity, many of them sue poor patients for their medical bills.
Single payer systems in other countries are far cheaper than our private for-profit health insurance system and deliver far better health outcomes. We spend three times the average of other developed nations on healthcare.
Even so, people in most other developed nations live longer than we do. And we have some of the worst rates of mother and infant deaths and of deaths from preventable diseases in developed nations. Many countries that rely on for-profit insurance companies strictly regulate them to keep costs low.
The World Health Organization ranks France as having the best health care in the world and they spend only 5% on insurance bureaucracy and billing. Japan bans insurance companies from making a profit, emphasizes prevention, and achieves better health results than ours despite a far larger percentage of elderly people there.
Contrary to popular opinion, most countries with single payer health care have no issues with wait times. No advanced country has waiting periods for emergency surgery or procedures that are urgently needed. Canada and England do have long waits for elective procedures and imaging services because when conservative governments came in, they slashed health care budgets and underfunded equipment and specialists.
Many Americans have problems now with wait times for primary care, mental health, and even emergency care. Our country spends two to three times as much as most other countries on health care, however, so using an efficient single payer health system or Medicare for All, we would have no shortages or significant wait times.
A wealth of evidence shows care by family doctors emphasizing prevention protects health better and far more cheaply. Japanese people see their doctors an average of nearly fourteen times a year.
Studies show many people burdened by medical bills must spend all their savings, declare bankruptcy, move, take another job, work more hours, take in roommates, or turn to charity for help.
Our health industry lobbies more than any other industry to preserve the status quo. Last year, they spent four times as much as the next contender—the military industrial complex.
Because health is a foundation of prosperity, Medicare For All would grow our economy. Economists estimate investing in universal health care would bring economic benefits more than 10 times the cost.
Companies that pay for health care now, freed from this massive burden, would be able to pay their employees better and compete better worldwide. Removing the devastating burden of health care from municipal, state, and federal budgets would free up plenty of money for education, infrastructure, and public services like policing.
Medicare For All would also put money in our pockets. Senator Bernie Sanders argues a typical family earning $50,000 a year would save nearly $6,000 a year in health care costs.
When Medicare began in 1965, our economy was only 1/4th the size and strength it is today. The plan was to expand Medicare to include all children, then eventually everybody.
Now Republicans pretend they want to “save” Medicare by raising the age to qualify and by turning it into cash vouchers, forcing everyone to buy private insurance. This would allow the superrich to invest in their stocks, charge fees and commissions, and speculate with the money on Wall Street.
This would only destroy Medicare and make health care more expensive. Before Medicare, we saw how many seniors and those with disabilities couldn’t get health insurance at all at any price and those who managed to find it paid extremely high rates.
We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world and richer than ever before. We already see Medicare taking care of the oldest and most disabled Americans with amazing efficiency and cost savings. Covering the rest of us is much easier and cheaper. It would be foolish to go back to the bad, old days and force everyone to buy health insurance from predatory for-profit companies.
We should follow the original, wise plan and expand Medicare to ALL. Including everyone would greatly strengthen Medicare with far healthier people. At the very least, we should start by including those over the age of 50 or 55 and children up to 25 or 30 years old.
This first step would strengthen Medicare with some younger, healthier people and help give the next generation a better start. If Medicare covered those over 50 or 55, it would make health insurance for the rest of the younger, healthier population cheaper.
Medicare For All isn’t the only possible answer. The Commonwealth Fund rated England, Australia, and the Netherlands as having the best health care systems. England and Australia have single-payer systems, basically Medicare For All.
But the Netherlands require the Dutch to buy health insurance from regulated insurers, with subsidies to help them afford it. This shows private insurance can work, with smart rules and regulations.
We could force insurance companies to compete more and give Americans a better deal. We could outlaw huge deductables, small health care provider networks, and eliminating coverage for medicines in the middle of the year.
We could force private insurance companies to meet strict cost and quality guidelines, to perform closer to or as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
Another great first step would be letting people buy into Medicare or offering a public health insurance option. Because of Medicare’s incredibly efficiency or that of a national public insurance option, this would very quickly force the giant monopoly for-profit health insurance companies to compete for customers with better prices.
Many insurance companies make massive profits from contracts with Medicare Advantage or Medicaid using billions of government dollars but refuse to participate in the less lucrative individual health insurance Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. We could follow New York’s lead and require private insurers that bid on Medicare or Medicaid contracts to participate in the ACA.
Oregon has already passed a law that gives health care to just about everyone, regardless of income or type of insurance. Americans work more hours than the people of any other rich nation. We deserve free health care. It would save many thousands of lives and make our nation and economy stronger.