‘Everybody in, nobody out’ is the only plan we need
Healthcare industry stocks dropped nearly 5 percent last week as Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) introduced a Medicare for All bill in the House with more than 100 co-sponsors. As well, in his first town hall since announcing his bid for the presidency, Bernie Sanders said there will soon be a (re)introduction of a similar bill in the Senate which will have at least 16 co-sponsors. Nurses’ unions, physicians’ associations, and hospital associations — groups that represent working people — have come out in favor of a single-payer system, and 70% of the American people support it.
In an effort to thwart what appears to be an inevitable passage of a Medicare for All bill within the next decade, healthcare industry groups have mobilized and plan to spend millions to campaign against this idea that essentially moves healthcare from a profit-driven industry to one that focuses on, well, health.
Right now, under our current system, nearly 30 million people in the United States are uninsured, and 40 million are under-insured. We spend more per capita on healthcare than any other developed nation, and our health outcomes are worse. Pharmaceutical companies have ramped up efforts to enrich CEO and shareholder bank accounts by drastically increasing the cost of their drugs, many of which have been around for decades and are essential ― think: insulin ― for survival for many citizens. People are dying because our current healthcare system is broken and riddled with corporate greed.
But the road to single-payer is paved with misinformation, promoted by the Healthcare lobby and members of both political parties. The GOP, as we’ve learned over the past several years, blatantly sides with industry and special interests in the healthcare debate. While some prominent Democrats have come around to the idea of single-payer since Sanders’ historic presidential run in 2016, many are still pushing for a “market-based” solution which won’t reach the ultimate goal of single payer: “Everybody in, Nobody out.”
One of the most nefarious scare tactics of those opposed to a single-payer system is convincing people that they love their current insurance plans. This worked to fire up a conservative base when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act under Obama, but the idea that the same logic applies to a Medicare for All policy is flawed.
That didn’t stop CNN’s Wolf Blitzer from pushing this propaganda on national television during Sanders’ town hall. Blitzer noted that, of Americans who have health insurance through their employers, 70% say they like their insurance plans. “Will these people be able to keep their … private plans through their employers if there is a Medicare for All program?” he asked. Blitzer, who has been a talking head on CNN for years, knows the answer to that question, and more importantly, he knows that it is not the correct question to be asking.
The answer, as Sanders pointed out, is no, everyone will have the same plan under a single-payer system. I imagine there was a chorus of center-right CNN viewers shouting “Socialist!” at their television screens in that moment. But the idea that people “like” their insurance plans is ridiculous. What people like is the care they have access to and can receive because of their insurance plans. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Man, I can’t wait to get on the phone with Blue Cross.”
Sanders corrected Blitzer. “People like their doctors. They like the hospitals. They like the care they’re getting,” but the damage of a cable news outlet promulgating health industry propaganda had already been done. What Blitzer could have had Sanders clarify is what Medicare for All would mean, even for those who currently have insurance. The answer: we will no longer have a private, for-profit industry as the gatekeeper of our healthcare, and you’ll be able to see any primary care provider you want. This is in stark contrast to our current Insurance Industry setup where your insurance provider dictates who you can see and when.
It’s encouraging to see the movement for Medicare for All is picking up steam ― as evidenced by the Healthcare Industry’s move to campaign against it and by the increased number of co-sponsors of single-payer bills in Congress and general public support. But it is important that we stick to reality when we debate this topic and that media personalities don’t muddy the waters by asking the wrong questions in a way that benefits one side or the other.
Ultimately, a single-payer system will allow every single American to get the healthcare they require to be healthy ― with no insurance necessary ― at a lower overall cost. The truth is, a Medicare for All system is the only plan we need.