Now is The Time to Push For Universal Healthcare Reform

36+ million unemployed Americans may now also lose their medical benefits

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

The United States is the only rich country that doesn’t have Universal Healthcare.

Medical care coverage is a Catch-22 in the U.S. If we want medical insurance benefits, we must either, Option A: Work at a job that provides medical coverage, or Option B: Pay for it out of pocket.

Option A: You must be healthy enough to work. If you lose your job, you lose your health insurance.

Option B: You must have enough money to pay the premiums for medical insurance. Individual coverage and COBRA (the continued medical coverage you can use if you lose your job) costs several hundred dollars per month in premiums alone for one person. Most people are unable to afford Option B.

Healthcare in our country is a corporate-run, for-profit entity. High premiums, high deductibles and large out-of-pocket costs are the norm for the working class. And our premium and copayment costs increase every year. If someone is diagnosed with a health issue, it will take hundreds to thousands of dollars out of the person’s pocket for treatment. If that person is not working to cover the medical bills, they may end up losing their life savings.

It’s a backwards way of caring for our population, because all of us will eventually need medical care.

It is without question that medical debt is what claims the poverty of millions of people every year, due to health issues and the high cost of healthcare. In the United States, the health disparity is the third worst in the world. In other words, if you are rich and affluent, you will receive good medical care. If you’re poor, you will not.

However, our country could adopt a Universal Healthcare System, like most all of the other countries in the world. This would give Americans at least basic coverage with little out-of-pocket costs, and raise our medical care to be equal to the other civilized countries in the world.

Universal health coverage embodies three related objectives:

1. equity in access to health services — those who need the services should get them, not only those who can pay for them;

2. that the quality of health services is good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and

3. financial-risk protection — ensuring that the cost of using care does not put people at risk of financial hardship.

-World Health Organization

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Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

There are already two types of Universal Healthcare systems in place in our country:

Medicare

Medicare is a national program that subsidizes healthcare services for anyone over 65, younger people with specific eligibility criteria, and people with certain diseases.

Medicare is divided into four categories: Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C or Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D for prescriptions.

Medicare Part A premiums are free for those who made Medicare contributions for 10 or more years through their payroll taxes.

Patients are responsible for paying premiums for other parts of the Medicare program.

Investopedia

Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health care coverage to low-income individuals.

The federal government matches state spending on Medicaid and states are responsible for designing and administering the program.

In 2018, 75 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid, or one in five Americans, and total spending on the program was $593 billion.

Eligibility is determined based on one’s income in comparison to the federal poverty level (FPL).

Access to Medicaid has proven to show increased individuals with coverage and improvements in overall health.

Investopedia

It’s not a matter of whether or not we have some form of Universal Healthcare in our country, because we do, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. However, we must either over age 65, disabled, or become financially destitute before we get covered under these plans. That means if you are healthy, under 65, and get sick, you must lose your house and all your savings and income from getting adequate health care.

We all need healthcare at some level, even if it’s a check-up. Most all of us in our life will need to see the doctor for something, most all of us at some point will need medication, have surgery, or have a chronic medical condition that requires ongoing treatment. And at the end of life, medical care is necessary in our world.

Three Advantages of Universal Healthcare

  1. Lowers the overall cost of health care in the country. Since it is federally funded, the government sets the rate for all of healthcare services, not just Medicare and Medicaid.
  2. People get access to preventative and primary care instead of visiting the emergency room for care. This creates a healthier society overall.
  3. People pay through taxes rather than out of pocket for medical care, so there are no out of pocket costs and people will not go bankrupt due to medical bills.

Three Disadvantages of Universal Healthcare-Debunked

  1. People will pay (through taxes) for services they don’t use. I’m not sure if people realize this or not, but we are already doing this with our private medical insurance, through spending hundreds of dollars in premium payments, and then additionally through deductibles, copays, and co-insurance. Right now, we must pay a certain amount of money (premium)— the insurance company sets the price — to carry insurance. If you don’t have any medical problems, but you carry insurance through work or private pay, you are already paying for others to receive healthcare.
  2. People who don’t have to pay copays will go to the emergency room more frequently and will be less concerned about their health. The thought is that since people don’t have to pay for copays, then they will spend their medical dollars unwisely by using the emergency room. Frequent emergency room visits are based more on health disparities in communities, rather than the lack of concern over one’s own health. According to Healthline.com, people who are more likely to visit the ER:

Those in the “other” insurance category, including people without insurance, were the most likely to visit emergency rooms.

People living in the South were also more likely to visit the emergency department when compared with other areas of the country.

African-American patients were significantly more likely to visit the emergency department than other racial groups.

-Healthline

Medicaid patients will visit the emergency room more often because they are at poverty level and typically in poor health. However, it is the uninsured person who more often visits the emergency room, because they do not have primary physicians, and wait until the condition worsens enough to seek medical care.

It is also a myth that people covered under Universal Healthcare have no out-of-pocket costs. In reality, they pay for some services, but their costs are minimal compared to a private-pay system.

3. There are longer waiting times for medical care under a Universal Healthcare system. This urban myth has been touted by the for-profit medical advocates for years, even decades. However, the fact has been that similar countries to the U.S. have similar or shorter wait times than under private healthcare. Again, the disparity is more of an issue here, where the wealthier and insured can be seem more promptly than those who are in poverty, or have no health insurance.

During this pandemic, it shows more than ever that the people need a better way to obtain healthcare. Now that over 22 million people have lost their jobs, imagine how many have also lost their health insurance along with their job.

The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.

-World Health Organization

My questions are these: Have you lost your job and your health insurance? What are you going to do when you need medical care? How will you pay for your medical care?

Healthcare is a fundamental human right. It’s time to demand a Universal Healthcare System so all of us can be treated without worrying that we will end up destitute.

Written by

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

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