• Sarah Kosoy

Is Free Healthcare the Way to Go?

For over half a decade, the U.S. has had major issues with their health care system. Many argue that opting for a single-payer option is the way to go while others say, “Not so fast!” So what are the potential benefits of switching to a universal system and why are so many people against it?

Before answering these major questions, it is crucial to understand the current health care systems in the U.S. The United States maintains a combination of health care providers. The majority of coverage is through private insurers granted through one’s employment. Low-income earners who cannot afford private insurance may qualify for government assistance in the form of Medicaid. Retirees over the age of 65, as well as those who are disabled are eligible for the government-run health care provider, Medicare.

Though the variety of health care options may seem appealing at first glance, it presents some pretty serious issues for Americans. With so many systems in place and considering the cost, employers can have a difficult time choosing the appropriate level of coverage for their employees. Depending on the extent of coverage given by the insurance provider, Americans may have to use a considerable chunk of their income to pay for out-of-pocket costs. These out-of-pocket expenses continue to rise along with drug prices. On average, individuals in the United States spend about $1,443 on prescription drugs alone, which is considerably higher than that of other countries.

With this statistic in mind and considering the other problems of our current system of healthcare, the future can look pretty bleak from afar. Lucky for us, the American public has brought this issue to the forefront time and time again, advocating for promising solutions, one of which is a universal health care system.

Many people argue that a universal single-payer system could successfully prevent the onset of chronic conditions that put a strain on our nation’s economy, such as heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. By itself, untreated hypertension can rack up medical costs by more than $2,000. Currently, low-income earners are disproportionately affected by costly conditions. In addition, this demographic is more likely to be uninsured, meaning many ailments go untreated, which contributes to additional expenses. Those in favor of a universal system believe that providing preventative care and accessible treatments can reduce the number of cases of progressive ailments, theoretically lowering the cost of health care overall. At the same token, fewer case numbers will indicate that a population is happy, healthy, and productive. According to an article published through the U.S. National Library of Medicine, investing simply $10 per person each year for community health programs could potentially save the United States about $16 billion within five years of investment.

Though the amount of savings sounds amazing, some argue that the $16 billion figure is too good to be true. A Forbes article written by Doctor Robert Pearl explains that the claim of billions in savings is oversimplified. Low care delivery cost is often compensated for in the form of higher taxes, and commercial insurers usually pay the majority of the price. In a domino effect, commercial insurers must raise the costs of their programs to balance out the higher taxes, ultimately affecting their customers. In summary, though the government can lower prices of health care services, this does not mean that overall costs will go down. Private insurers must make up the difference in the cost and pay extra for the governmental services.

The portion of the population opposed to a single-payer system believes that increasing competition between insurance companies is the way to combat health care woes. In theory, competition would wean out companies who provide poor service, little coverage, and are expensive. The incentive to attract the most customers would motivate commercial insurers to lower their prices and offer additional services. The constant back and forth between companies in competition could allow the American public better options than there are currently.

With all this information in mind, it can be difficult to determine which plan could put the issue of healthcare on the back burner once and for all. Should we opt for a government-run single payer system or allow the markets to do their job? Well, the solution may not be so black and white. Quite possibly, a combination of preventative care for the uninsured and more open markets for commercial companies may work better for the American people. Though we may not solve the healthcare problem anytime soon, there are steps Americans can take to make the most of the situation. It is imperative that we stay informed on the current issue of healthcare, listen to opposing arguments, and vote based on our own formulated opinions. Remember, every vote can and will affect our future. Vote wisely.