Republican candidates have yet to explain how Canada, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and the other industrialized nations manage to have their versions of Medicare for All, while we wait. Medicare presently works awfully well for 53 million of us. Why not for all of us? Recently, writer Jim Hightower took a look at the threadbare mythology that Medicare for All can’t succeed here.
The GOP’s first myth is that our health care costs would skyrocket. Not true, Hightower points out, because such a system would eliminate the need for insurance companies and their profits. It would put an end to price gouging and administrative waste that we also pay for. At present, the insurance industry consumes about 20 percent of the monthly premiums we pay for its overhead and administrative costs. By comparison, Medicare’s administrative costs are about 2 percent, and it isn’t profit driven. The reality is that, under a Medicare for All system, on average, Americans’ health care costs would be about half what they are now, as other nations have experienced.
Would Medicare for All send the annual budget deficit through the roof? Not at all. It can be paid for in a number of ways, or by a combination of such ways. First, we would save most of the administrative and profit costs. The remainder could be paid for with a transaction tax on Wall Street speculation (say, a quarter percent on each buy and sell, which mostly would be paid by the wealthy).
Alternatively, Medicare for All could be funded with cash generated by removing the cap on Social Security taxes. Many folks are unaware that Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Bill Gates and 11 million other wealthy Americans only pay Social Security tax on the first $128,700 they earn. If they also paid it on their massive incomes above that figure, the cash generated could fund Medicare for All. Another option is leveeing what some nations call a value added tax on purchases like televisions and dining out. It adds slightly to their cost, but you then pay nothing when you see a doctor, purchase medicine or stay in a hospital.
But what about the hours that I would sit in the waiting room in January while nursing a fever of 102? And how could I spend six months waiting for surgery for a burst appendix? In my talks with numerous international students at Marshall University, none ever said that it took more than 20 or 30 minutes to see the doctor in their home countries. Nor do people in their countries wait months for surgeries other than the elective type.
But what about the jobs of people who manage the paperwork for hospitals and drug companies? Won’t they be thrown out of work? Some will, but others will still be needed in a Medicare for All system. To soften inconvenience to folks who do lose jobs, Congress would need to transition to Medicare for All over several years and include cash for assisting such individuals in retraining and placement.
I anticipate shrieks of “Socialism!” But, does that concern also apply to Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, public schools, the National Park System, our police and fire departments, the interstate highways, state roads and Congress’ health care?
It is time for Republicans to step up, to let us enjoy what other countries have embraced for years, health care that works for all of us, at half the present cost.