By Matthew Adarichev
As election season heats up, we are once again hearing the same worn-out message parroted by Democrats hoping to get elected. You know it: “I support access to quality, affordable health care.” But no one ever questions why health care should be this way.
Because as far as I can see, health care shouldn’t just be affordable. It should be free.
Under rare circumstances, like in rural areas of the country, getting access to health care is genuinely difficult. There are situations in which there is a real shortage of doctors, and they must be addressed. But for the vast majority of Americans, the real barrier to health care is its prohibitively high cost.
You have “access” to health care in the same way you have “access” to a Lamborghini. What’s stopping you? Go get one! Clearly, the problem isn’t supply; the cars are there. It’s the fact that for most Americans, it’s way too expensive.
The difference is, you can live without a Lambo, but you can’t live without health care.
When did the idea that we should pay for necessary medical procedures become accepted? It’s as barbaric as demanding payment to breathe air. And the concept of affordability is completely subjective. A million-dollar procedure is affordable to a billionaire, but for those who live in poverty, coughing up a couple of thousand dollars a year — or even a couple of hundred — for bare-bones private insurance is onerous.
I’m not suggesting that our good, hardworking doctors work for free. Rather, we ought to provide everyone in the country with universal health care through a single-payer program. Everyone would pay into a pool, and the government would use that money to pay doctors for treatment.
The list of potential benefits is long. If you lost your job, you wouldn’t lose your health insurance. Small businesses wouldn’t have to bear the enormous cost of employee health care. Unions would no longer have to negotiate for health care benefits; 100 percent coverage would finally be achieved; and we would no longer lose 45,000 Americans a year due to a lack of health insurance.
The program would also save us money. A study from Yale University estimated that a single-payer system would save us $450 billion per year. Another study, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, put the price tag of single-payer at just under $3 trillion, compared with the $4.1 trillion the American Medical Association estimated we spent on health care in 2020, meaning single-payer could save us $22 trillion over 20 years.
Of course, there are concerns about higher taxes. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes if it meant that my fellow Americans would receive the care they needed. But call it whatever you want. You already pay “taxes” to private insurance companies in the form of premiums, copays and deductibles. And when expensive emergency services are utilized for preventable health problems, you foot part of the bill.
Contrary to popular opinion, government programs are extremely efficient. Social Security spends less than 1 percent of its budget on administration, and Medicare spends 2 percent, compared with a low estimate of 17 percent among private insurers, who spend many of your “tax” dollars on profits and marketing rather than health care.
A final worry is, “Would I lose my existing health insurance?” No. It’s a precarious time in America right now, but no one’s coverage would be taken away. Your current health insurance would be phased into the new plan over several years, during which you could still access services.
The path forward is clear: We need to move toward a single-payer system in the U.S. It will save money, lives, nerves, and a whole lot of paperwork. Luckily, we don’t need to move forward alone. We can look to our Pacific ally, Taiwan, which already has an outstanding single-payer system. Taiwan has a higher life expectancy, a lower infant mortality rate and a lower maternal mortality rate — all for less than we spend in the U.S.
If you want to reform our brutal health care system, find and call your state senator at www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
. There is legislation that has passed the Assembly called the New York Health Act, which would enact single-payer in New York state. Contact your U.S. representative as well, or call Sen. Chuck Schumer, at (202) 224-6542, or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, at (202) 224-4451. Remind them that single-payer is a policy supported by a majority of Americans.
Health care policy shouldn’t be about providing “access to quality, affordable health care.” It should be about providing quality health care, period.
Matthew Adarichev is a public policy major at Hofstra University, a political activist and an aspiring journalist whose work has appeared in the Hofstra Chronicle and the Anton Media Group.