Universal health care is powerful in its simplicity. If you need medical care, the government pays, at least for the basics. When you are sick, you can see a doctor and receive medicine…without paying out of pocket. When you are injured, you can heal and recuperate in a hospital…without paying out of pocket. The government pays to put you back to work and keep your productivity and dignity as a citizen.
Currently, the United States does not have universal health care. However, such care does exist for some citizens, such as the elderly through Medicare, the impoverished through Medicaid, and military personnel and veterans through military doctors and the VA. Everyone else, especially the bulk of the middle class, must purchase health insurance from profit-seeking corporations. Though Obamacare has forced these insurance companies to cover more procedures and accept more applicants, it has done nothing about the cost of premiums. In fact, many are upset that health insurance premiums have increased since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
You see, Obamacare has left profit-seeking health insurance corporations in charge. Though they must now provide more services, they are also allowed to continue seeking profits. And, of course, they are still free to approve or deny claims as they see fit. If you feel wronged, you better hope you can find a lawyer who is willing to go to battle with the massive legal departments employed by these corporate titans. Few can reasonably argue that, even after Obamacare, health insurance companies do not operate with impunity.
Need surgery? Your health insurance company may decide not to pay, leaving you on the hook. You are now at the mercy of market prices, which have soared far faster than inflation. As an average citizen, you are now at the mercy of complex and opaque billing operations, which are likely to overcharge you. Want to fight this? Again, you better hope you can find a good lawyer. Refuse to pay, and you could be looking at ruined credit scores, bankruptcies, or even wage garnishments.
Alone among industrialized nations, America still subjects its citizens to these indignities. Capitalism and the free market was supposed to lower health care costs through competition, but this has not happened. Rather, medical providers and health insurance companies operate like oligopolies or monopolies, charging outrageous fees because consumers have no reasonable alternatives. In the 2016 presidential election, no Republican candidate has voiced any complaint with this sad state of affairs. Among the two leading Democrats, a rift has grown between two plans to fix America’s overprices and inefficient health care market.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed that the United States adopt universal health care for all citizens. He wants Americans to be able to go to the doctor as simply and cheaply as sending our children to public schools. His proposal is not unique and has actually been proven successful among our many Western allies, including Canada and Britain. Sanders asserts that universal health care will actually save the U.S. billions of dollars over the long run as government-implemented cost controls and an increase in the supply of medical care reduce costs. It is also argued that American productivity will increase as workers are able to better maintain their health and avoid developing chronic injuries or illnesses due to inability to pay for health care.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) has proposed that the United States retain its existing policy of Obamacare, the colloquial name for the Affordable Care Act, but place additional restrictions on pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. She also wants to give tax credits to citizens to subsidize their health care costs. Clinton insists that Obamacare has been successful and will be sufficient over the long run.
Hillary Clinton argues that any tax increases on the middle class to pay for health care are unacceptable and that Republican governors will prevent any effective roll-out of socialized medicine. She has criticized Bernie Sanders for not revealing details on how his administration would fund universal health care and insists that the costs will be too high. In response, Sanders has pointed out that Clinton herself once championed the idea of universal health care in the United States.
Why Bernie Sanders Wins
Though you could indeed argue that Bernie Sanders’ proposal of universal health care will be more expensive than he claims, and that its implementation would be opposed by Republicans, Hillary Clinton fails to argue against the merits of universal health care. She is merely quibbling over financial and procedural details. Universal health care has been implemented effectively in many industrialized nations and now blesses them with lower per-capita health care costs and higher quality-of-life measurements. Even if initial costs are higher than Sanders predicts, it is difficult to argue that the long-term results will be anything short of an economic boom.
Clinton also fails to address critics’ complaints that privatized health care involves unethical profiteering. By allowing profit-seeking health care corporations and medical providers to remain in the driver’s seat, Clinton’s proposals will never see a long-term reduction in health care costs. These profit-seeking firms are adept at working around government regulations to continue making ample net income.
Unfortunately, the net income is derived from consumers who are often ill or injured, making their demand highly inelastic. Those who need medical care are often desperate and unable to shop around for the best deal. Those afflicted with illness, injury, or poverty lack the consumer sovereignty necessary to make capitalist competition work effectively. Privatized health care, as a result, is a false market. Its supply is artificially reduced and its demand is excessively inelastic. Government subsidies, with the absence of cost controls, have led to tremendous inflation in health care costs. None of this is addressed by Clinton in any fashion.
Universal health care may be more expensive than expected, slower to implement than expected, but it will end unacceptable and unethical profiteering. This, and only this, will guarantee lower long-term health care costs.