The failure of the Trump administration and the House of Representatives to Repeal and Replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) should be a clarion call for a different approach to bringing the United States into the community of developed nations which provide universal health care to their citizens. The time has come for a single payer universal health care system to cover all Americans.
Now, here’s an approach that should get support from those on both sides of the aisle. Those who want to see universal health care coverage for all. And those who would like to give a giant economic shot in the arm to American businesses.
In 2015, the average company-provided health insurance policy totaled $6,251 a year for single coverage. On average, employers paid 83 percent of the premium, or $5,179 a year. Employees paid the remaining 17 percent, or $1,071 a year. And for family coverage, the average policy totaled $17,545 a year with employers contributing, on average, 72 percent or $12,591. Employees paid the remaining 28 percent or $4,955 a year.
The U.S. is the only developed nation where most health care costs are absorbed by employers. Imagine the economic impact to American businesses if the responsibility for health care costs was removed from their financial statements. Those savings could be used to reinvest in corporate expansion creating the resources for the largest job creation initiative in modern history.
So who would pay for the health care costs for the majority of Americans who currently receive health insurance through their employers? The answer is the same way that health care costs are paid on behalf of citizens in all other developed nations…a single payer universal health care system paid for in large part by the U.S. government. In short, a Medicare for all program with limited financial participation by citizens for basic health care coverage and the opportunity for supplemental insurance coverage paid for by Americans who want additional levels of coverage just as optional medigap policies are purchased from private insurance companies to pay health care costs not covered such as co-payments, deductibles, and prescription drugs.
Medicare gets universal high satisfaction grades from seniors who, it should be noted, consume a disproportionately high percentage of health care services. The individual payment for basic Medicare coverage together with the optional costs for supplemental policies require far less investment by individuals 65 and older than the out of pocket costs for premiums, deductibles and co-pays by those on traditional employer sponsored health plans and even less than the costs of those whose health care premiums are not covered by their employer.
Individual contributions to help pay for a nominal portion of the cost of health care coverage should be means tested. Those living in poverty would not be expected to contribute to the costs of their health care coverage.
For those who think that such a plan would cripple the insurance companies nothing could be further from the truth. In the same way that insurers sell Medicare recipients supplemental policies that could sell similar optional medigap policies. But it is likely that the exorbitant health insurance company CEO compensation may be flushed out of the system.
It seems to me that a social contract with all Americans to provide comprehensive health care coverage is part of the basic rights which is implied in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In the modern era, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Seven years ago, the passage of the Affordable Care Act represented the greatest contribution to the health of the American people since the first attempt at healthcare reform in the post-war era occurred during the administration of President Harry S. Truman. President Truman recommended to Congress a proposal for universal health insurance coverage, administered and paid for by a National Health Insurance Board. (The article: “A Brief History on the Road to Healthcare Reform: From Truman to Obama” is an excellent resource for those interested in tracing the path of health care reform over the past 72 years. This article can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/kxtpwbq ).
The ACA is clearly an imperfect provision. It was flawed in many ways from the time it was signed into law. But it may also be one of the most politicized social reforms in the history of the nation. Congress and the new administration had no appetite to fix what was broken. They wanted it gutted, repealed and replaced. But they were not able to get that done.
So now is the time for a bold approach to health care reform which will ensure that every American will be treated fairly, equally and humanely with the assurance that they won’t die because they cannot afford health care and they won’t go broke because they get sick. A simple compact that embodies the spirit of the Declaration of Independence…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now is the time for America to adopt single payer universal health care because NO ONE SHOULD DIE BECAUSE THEY CANNOT AFFORD HEALTH CARE AND NO ONE SHOULD GO BROKE BECAUSE THEY GET SICK!