A Few Very Strong Arguments For Medicare For All Just Got Real
Biden is asleep at the wheel, Sanders is running a blitz. Trump is protecting Wall Street.
I can hardly believe what has passed before my eyes in the last month. The stock market has tanked almost 30%. 3 million are now unemployed and counting. The streets are empty in my town, and everyone is staying at home as much as they can. Millions of people cannot work for the risk of infection of coronavirus and the illness caused by it.
A few days ago Congress passed the largest relief act in history, the CARES Act. It is $2 trillion of relief for nearly everyone. While the majority of that relief goes to the common man, a significant fraction of that relief goes to a tiny number of very wealthy people. Real estate people. Like Trump.
In the midst of this pandemic, it is becoming clear that many arguments in favor of Medicare for All have been stamped in bold on America. Bernie Sanders will go down in history, nominee or not, president or not, as being “right”. He correctly called for the need for a universal health care system that provides health insurance without respect to the employment status of a human being.
More than 3 million claimed unemployment benefits just last week, those same people either lose their benefits or they can make giant COBRA payments to their insurers. Unemployment checks won’t cover those payments and the rent. I know, I’ve made COBRA payments before. With the pandemic, it is easy to see that the people who built the system we grew up and live in, weren’t thinking of us. They were thinking of profits over lives.
Those same unemployed people, without health insurance, will avoid treatment for fear of the medical bills. Now it’s true that many people can get tested for free, and most insurers will foot that bill. But even for those who have insurance, there is a substantial copay if they are treated for COVID-19, the disease that results from a coronavirus infection.
Insurers now say that as a result of the coronavirus, we can expect to see our premiums rise 30–40% next year. They will work in lockstep to ensure that premiums rise in order to cover their costs. Somehow, I doubt this is what President Trump had in mind. And if he had any good sense in him, he’d be saying something, doing something about that. If Trump is in favor of free markets, he is against price-fixing and collusion in the market.
I’ve seen the numbers for the people treated for COVID-19. The average bill for treatment lately is $73,000. There have been 142,000 cases reported so far as of today. That’s a bill of $10.2 billion to start. Preliminary estimates infer that there were at least 2 million people infected as of March 20th. It is also estimated that somewhere between 40 and 70% of Americans will be infected. Assuming worst-case infection rates, 70% of 330 million is 231 million, and 4% hospitalization rates, which would leave 9.2 million hospitalized through the end of the pandemic. Even at the lower bounds, this is going to be very, very expensive for the insurance companies.
Even under optimal suppression conditions, our health care system is projected to be overwhelmed by May, and in a few places, it is already overwhelmed. It is not unreasonable to expect the biggest insurance companies to demand relief from bankruptcy and/or government bailouts. If we’re going to bail out insurance companies (and the hospitals aren’t like to get paid for all of their costs) on their request, they will have made the case for Medicare For All. If the current system is unable to respond and care for all of the sick because of lack of money, then we need Medicare For All.
It’s important to remember that the health care industry has in place, a highly effective, highly paid lobbying apparatus to push their agenda and to voice their concerns. The rest of us do not. The health care industry has been in a position to effectively regulate themselves, and they did not. Health care industry money has helped to give rise to the conditions that gave us Trump, this fact is undeniable.
The health care industry has been calling the shots for decades in Congress. They have captured regulators and along with them, billions in profits over the decades. It is now clear that by their own hand, they left themselves unprepared for a pandemic that they knew would come someday regardless of every political advantage they have managed to acquire. We need to impose oversight on the healthcare industry that they can’t capture. Medicare for All would go a long way towards that end.
There is one more point about Medicare For All that is often missed. The entire game over the last 40 years (maybe more) has been one of shifting burdens. If I am a health care CEO, I will be focused on the bottom line, my loyalty to shareholders, and I will be externalizing all the costs that I can in order to maximize profits. If you’ve ever had to deal with the healthcare bureaucracy, you know that it’s not that much more efficient than government bureaucracy, especially if your claim has been denied. That bureaucracy is designed to increase profits.
The taxes imposed to pay for Medicare for All can be designed to inhibit people from shifting burdens. If I support a policy that leaves people at risk while fattening my profits, I should pay more in taxes to support those policies. The tax system for Medicare for All can be designed to inhibit people from trying to shift the healthcare burden onto others because no matter what, it’s a shared burden.
We’re all in this together. Medicare For All will bind us together.