The Pros and Cons of Medicare for All

Medicare for All is a bill first introduced to Congress in 2017 by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The purpose of Medicare for All is to establish a universal Medicare program providing medical services to all U.S. citizens.

A decision regarding the implementation of Medicare for All was postponed because the bill primarily had Democratic backing at a time when Republicans held more decision-making power in Congress. Now, Democrats control the House. That shift in Washington political dynamics has sparked new interest in the bill in 2019. Hearings are planned to discuss it in detail.

If Medicare for All is passed, you can expect major changes to the healthcare industry. There is currently a debate over the nature of those changes. Do the positive aspects of Medicare for All outweigh the negative aspects? To answer that question, you must examine the potentially wide-reaching effects of completely overhauling the American medical insurance system. Below are some pros and cons of Medicare for All to consider.

Pro: No More Uninsured American Citizens

When President Barrack Obama was in office, Obamacare was a major change to the health insurance industry. Most Americans were required to purchase health insurance by law. However, Americans in the lowest income brackets were exempt. That exemption meant many people most in need of medical insurance had none because they could not afford to purchase it.

Healthcare costs in the United States are rising. They are also already much higher than medical costs in other developed countries. Most of those countries already have universal healthcare systems in place. For example, The average cost of a knee replacement in the U.K. in 2019 is $18,000. In the U.S., the average cost is $28,000. Most of those costs are offset, if patients have insurance. However, insurance deductibles are often too high for patients to afford.

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Creating a universal healthcare system in the United States eliminates the need for co-payments or deductibles, in theory. It also ensures standardized pricing for medications and medical procedures. A standardized system can reduce the costs of medical procedures substantially as well, making healthcare available to and affordable for everyone.

Pro: Doctors Have to Provide Standardized Care

Currently, the U.S. healthcare industry is competitive in numerous ways. Hospitals attempt to outdo each other by providing the highest possible standards of care and the newest technologies for patients. However, that competition drives the cost of care up. It makes proper medical care too expensive for uninsured or under insured Americans. Some procedures are even too expensive for Americans with certain health insurance plans because of co-pays, deductibles and related restrictions. Even still, the cost of health insurance is unmanageable for some people.

Medicare for All is a means of combating those problems. Under a universal healthcare plan, doctors and hospitals are part of the same overall group of medical service providers. Establishing such a system can provide several benefits. Among them are:

  • Elimination of networks, allowing patients to visit any hospitals or doctors they wish.
  • Standardized prices for specific medical procedures, eliminating competition.
  • Equal service for all patients, regardless of social status or income level.

Pro: Improved Patient Care Leading to Better Use of Resources

Lack of affordable medical insurance often causes misuse of medical resources, particularly the emergency room. Patients without medical insurance do not have primary care physicians (PCPs). Therefore, they visit emergency rooms frequently in non-emergency situations. Doing so causes several problems including:

  • Patients do not receive thorough care because ER doctors are not as familiar with their medical histories as PCPs.
  • Doctors in ERs cannot treat as many seriously injured patients as they otherwise might.
  • ER resources and time better spent treating critical patients are wasted.
  • Non-critical patients attending ERs, particularly when uninsured, often receive medical bills they have no ability to pay, causing monetary deficits for facilities and financial stress for patients.

Under a universal healthcare program like Medicare for All, patients receive all necessary forms of care, including PCP services. Therefore, resources are used properly. Patient health also improves because regular visits to the doctor allow early detection of medical conditions. Preventative care and health education also improves the long-term health of patients.

Con: Private Insurers May Disappear

Medicare for All proposes making basic government-provided medical insurance coverage mandatory for all United States citizens. That may cause the disappearance of most private insurers. Those that remain may offer occasional supplemental plans, but the revenue reductions experienced may cripple them.

Is eliminating the need for private medical insurance a good thing? Staff members at those private insurance firms are not the only citizens who may say the answer is no.

Many American citizens prefer to stick to their insurance routines. For example, recent research indicates Americans are employer-provided health insurance coverage is popular, despite its rising costs. Many health insurance plans offered by employers also have restricted networks. However, employee polling indicates such plans are still preferred over the unknown risks of changing providers.

Con: Creating an Unbalanced Payment System and Less Concern Regarding Care

Medicare for All implies equality. The care level and access are equal, but the payment system is not. A universal healthcare system is government-funded, but those funds must come from somewhere. Common practice is to increase taxes or other costs paid by the public to fund such a system. Everyone pays the same amount into the system, but not everyone receives the same types of care.

Under a universal healthcare plan like Medicare for All, a patient who sees a PCP twice a year for preventative care and has no major health problems pays a set amount. The same amount is paid by a patient receiving regular treatment for a chronic illness. Therefore, treatment of the sick is financed by the healthy. That is why healthy individuals in countries with universal healthcare plans often dislike such systems.

Since the sickest citizens use the most medical resources but pay no extra money to do so, there is also no incentive for any patients to pay particular attention to their own health. They can go to the doctor or hospital whenever they need to, so they may opt to take more risks. Incentives for doctors to provide high-quality care are also lower because they do not receive extra pay for doing so.

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