If anything has shown us that employer-based insurance has always been a terrible idea, it is the current Covid-19 pandemic that we all find ourselves dealing with today. Since April 1st, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs along with any health insurance they may have had. Sure, Covid-19 testing is now being covered by the Trump administration, but the treatment? Not so much. And what about other illnesses and conditions? Medicare for All would cover it all.
There is a consistent belief held by our nation, reaffirmed through the Estelle v. Gamble Supreme Court ruling more than fifty years ago, which held that even people in prison have a constitutional right to adequate health care. In September 1799, our nation’s first president stated that health was, “amongst (if not the most) precious gift of Heaven,” continuing “we are but little capable of business, or enjoyment without good health.” In 1912, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, and Democrats Franklin Roosevelt, in 1935, and Lyndon Johnson, in 1965, each proposed a form of a national health care plan.
The tragic reality is America ranks dead-last among industrialized nations in health care outcomes and sadly ranks first in infant mortality rates. To put it bluntly, America is the only industrialized nation on Earth where health care delivery is based on the size of your wallet (your ability to pay) and not your actual health care needs.
Today, there is proposed legislation written by Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) titled House Bill 1384 that would expand Medicare to everyone over a two-year phase in. If passed into law HB1384 would essentially cover every American’s basic and catastrophic health care needs from birth to death. It would also eliminate all copays, deductibles, closes any existing donut holes, and would include dental, vision, mental health, podiatry, and comprehensive prescription coverage.
As written, this law would NOT eliminate private for-profit insurance. Private insurance would no longer be allowed to cover anything considered basic and catastrophic health care needs. Private coverage would only be allowed to cover all supplemental and non-health related health care.
Currently, it is illegal for the Medicare Administration to negotiate for lower drug prices under Medicare Part D. So, whether Medicare buys a single aspirin or a billion in a single purchase, the price is whatever the drug company decides to charge. HR1384 repeals Medicare Part D and makes it possible to slash pharmaceutical costs.
Under this plan, we would pay for Medicare for All the same way we currently pay for Medicare — through our weekly paychecks. The overall cost of coverage for nearly 95 percent of all Americans would be thousands of dollars less per year than most of us pay now. So yes, your public taxes will go up to about 6% of your annual salary, but you would no longer be paying those exorbitant private taxes known as premiums, deductibles, and copays to your for-profit insurance company. Basically, both you and your employer would save thousands of dollars per year.
This law would end the plague of unnecessary medical bankruptcies, allow you more freedom to go from job to job, more easily start your own business, and have peace of mind that if you get injured or sick that you won’t go home with medical bills. The number one reason for bankruptcies in America.
Medicare for all also reduces the burden on our national debt by somewhere between $200 billion (a Mercatus Institute study) and $600 billion (a Political Economy Research Institute study) every single year as discussed on Capitol Hill during the House hearings in the Summer of 2019.
Every doctor, nurse, medical clinic, and hospital would remain private entities who would be paid by a single payer, Medicare. You would be able to continue to see the doctor, nurse, medical clinic, or hospital you currently know and trust!
Many unions have begun to realize the massive savings that businesses would reap as a result of Medicare covering their members. Typically, contract negotiations focus on health care benefits, but under Medicare for all, the focus would instead be on pay raises, vacation time, worker safety, and other potential benefits typically lost in contract negotiations because of the high cost of private for-profit insurance premiums dominating the conversation.
Illinois and other states would be in position to eliminate state Medicaid programs. Currently, Medicaid is approximately 24 percent of Illinois’ budget, or roughly $8 billion dollars per year that the state would no longer need to pay out. Second, the state would no longer need to pay for health insurance for all state public employees because like the rest of us, they would also be enrolled in Medicare.
Nearly $15 billion in Illinois’ budget funds would be available for other social needs like public education, rebuilding our crumbling roads, transportation, and other infrastructure. Even the potential for substantive tax cuts at the state and local levels for those of us with modest incomes would exist. This would apply to all local municipalities as well. That means more local tax dollars to pay for road upkeep, parks, the arts, and education. There would also be fewer taxpayer dollars going toward funding retired public employee health care.
Medicare for all means ALL our elected officials and civil servants would also receive the very same health care coverage as the rest of us. How is that for a quality guarantee?
Small business owners with employees would see automatic savings of their current tax equivalent overhead costs of 22–38 percent be replaced with a 9 percent payroll tax, a net savings of between 13–29 percent for every single business. A business owner would not have to waste days, if not weeks, shopping around for insurance coverage for their employees’ year in and year out.
The individual “open enrollment” period becomes a thing of the past as both employers and their employees do not have to shop around for what coverage they can afford for the coming year. Employees would not lose their favorite doctor because that doctor was not on the new insurance plan’s “network”. Add to this the very real and measurable rise in employee satisfaction, and increased productivity because of diminished stress about the cost of treatment for health problems, medical bills, and being able to keep one’s favorite doctor.
The time for Medicare for All, as it was intended, has finally come. If you believe healthcare is a human right, one protected by our Constitution, as I do, then we must work together to support a single-payer, M4A system.