On Friday November 1, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to finance Medicare for All, proposing 20.5 trillion dollars in new federal spending to provide health insurance to everyone in the United States. The large spending, as she proposes, will largely come from employer transfers of money that they currently spend on healthcare and wealth taxes as well as some other initiatives to reduce inefficiencies.
While many are criticizing Warren’s plan as unrealistic, I believe it is undeniable that Medicare for All represents the hope of transitioning from an already broken healthcare system to a more effective, new system that offers the possibility of making healthcare affordable for everyone. The current healthcare system in the United States is deeply flawed. According to the statistics of CNBC, the average American household spends 5,000 dollars per person on healthcare.
30 million Americans have no insurance, and tens of millions more do not have adequate healthcare coverage. People go bankrupt every year partly due to their astonishingly expensive medical bills. Another poll suggests that around 40 percent of Americans said they had skipped a recommended test or treatment, and 32 percent said they had skipped a medicine because of cost. All the facts point to the obvious: the present healthcare system simply does not work.
Across international lines, however, healthcare is not such a serious problem. In most of Europe and Asia, some form of universal healthcare is the norm, and has been for many decades. If Germany or Norway can manage a universal healthcare system so easily, why not the US?
If the existing healthcare system is both costly and inefficient, why does it still persist? The system only benefits a small segment of the American society who reap the tremendous profits from the system. By prioritizing profitability, the healthcare system has denied the American public, especially lower-income families, a basic right that people in many other countries enjoy—the right to affordable healthcare.
Attempts to mend the existing healthcare system have proved that the system is problematic down to its very roots. If this is the case, then maybe it is reasonable for us to stop considering how to preserve the existing ineffective system, which has repeatedly failed the promise of affordable healthcare and bankrupted even families with insurance because of the exorbitant prices, and to envision a radically different one that covers everyone, restrains price and improves results.
I agree that the single payer system does not sound ideal. Anyone with some basic knowledge of economics will know that such a system may in fact bring inefficiency in the healthcare sector. You can just look at Britain for an example of that, where the single-payer system causes massive inefficiency and delays in public healthcare, or even Canada, where waiting times for serious medical operations are almost universally unbearable.
Moving the private spending from the existing system to the public budget can also be exceptionally challenging. Moreover, the critique that Warren’s calculation of the spending for the plan is understated appears to be valid. However, I still think that Warren’s Medical for All plan represents a call for Americans to reconsider the problems of their healthcare system and their values. It is time to contemplate the structural inequalities and how our existing system continues to perpetuate the inequalities and disadvantage the lower-income class. A change is needed to give back the basic rights to the public. Affordable healthcare is the first step, and Warren is taking that step to seriously address the issues of the American healthcare system.