Last week, the DM published an article about Kennedy Frain and some of the failures of the university’s Student Health Center and Student Counseling Center. It is unacceptable that our university allows high prices and a limited insurance network to become a barrier between students with financial needs and the medical care they need. Medical care services have more than doubled in price since 1998. Unfortunately, the experience of Kennedy Frain is becoming more and more common in our country.
In 1948, still haunted by the horrors of World War II, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, in Article 25, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family… .”
The United States voted in favor of this declaration, but judging by the policies of the past 70 years, most might assume we voted against it. Many other nations believed that health care was indeed a universal human right and established robust universal health care systems funded by the public. But like our aversion to the metric system and soccer, yet much more serious, our leaders believe that health care is a consumer good that should be available only to those who can afford it.
While it is 70 years too late, it is high time for “Medicare for All” in the United States because it is not only the morally right thing to do but also the economically and politically right decision to make. Conservatives love to say that “facts don’t care about your feelings” so let’s look at the facts.
From 2015 data, Bloomberg News rates our health care system tied with Azerbaijan as the 54th most efficient. That is a comparison of how much money we spend and our actual health outcomes. The average nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a collection of 36 developed nations, spends $3,991 per capita on health care, amounting to 8.8 percent of its GDP, and has a life expectancy of 80.4 years.
The U.S. on the other hand spends $9,536 per capita on health care, amounting to 16.8 percent of our GDP, and has a life expectancy 78.7. We are spending 2 1/2 times as much as our peers and are getting worse health outcomes in spite of the extra money. That does not look like fiscal responsibility or economic efficiency. A vast majority of our peers have universal health care for all of their citizens through socialized, single-payer and mixed systems, and the results speak for themselves.
The Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank funded by the Koch family, did a study on the cost of “Medicare for All” and found that it would insure 30 million more Americans and save our country $2 trillion over the next 10 years. They found that “Medicare for All” would cost $32.6 trillion over the next 10 years; however, our current health care system would cost $34.7 trillion.
In addition to those savings, Americans would never have to pay a copay, have an hour-long phone call with their insurance company or check to see which physicians accept their insurance. Private companies would not have to provide health care for their employees anymore, either resulting in higher wages or increased employment rates. Although the “Medicare for All” plan includes higher tax rates, a vast majority of Americans would spend the same or less on health care while those at the top, who can afford it, would see their health care costs go up. We would all receive equal medical, dental and mental health care no matter the size of our bank account.
And this is not just some radical socialist agenda supported by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Consistent polling shows that 70 percent of Americans, including 52 percent of Republicans, support the idea of a single-payer health care system. This is a winning issue for everyone except for the shareholders and lobbyists of the health insurance industry. What is radical, however, is Gov. Bryant suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act and continuing to refuse federal dollars to expand Medicaid to insure 220,000 more Mississippians, though Bryant has reportedly been considering Medicaid expansion in Mississippi in recent months, according to Politico. Medicaid expansion under the ACA is supported by 72 percent of Mississippians.
In conclusion, health care is not a privilege for those who can afford it but an intrinsic human right. Universal health care systems are more economically efficient and effective than our current system, and a vast majority of Americans support “Medicare for All.” There are millions of people like Kennedy Frain in our nation, and we must fight for a health care system that values them.
Jacob Gambrell is a senior international studies major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.