United States Heading Toward Universal Health Care?
Back in 2010, the United States passed the Affordable Care Act, which was dubbed as “Obamacare” or the ACA. When it debuted, the ACA promised affordable healthcare for everyone in the United States, but it’s been the source of a lot of debate since even before the ACA was passed. Republicans in the United States have discussed repealing the ACA from the get-go, but haven’t thought of a plan to put into its place.
Now, a familiar face on the Democrat side is proposing a change to Obamacare, and it could put the United States in the same conversation as many other developed countries. The change was proposed by Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont that nearly won the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016 against Hillary Clinton before ultimately falling short. In the proposed bill, the United States would adopt a similar healthcare system to that of countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.
In Sanders’s proposal, the United States would adopt the single payer system known as Medicare for All. Currently, Medicare covers American residents who are at least 65 years old with health insurance benefits, prescription drugs and more that are covered by taxpayers in the United States. Sanders said that the plan would drop the age to 55 years old within the first year, and eventually cover all adults with Medicare after four years, in which case all adult Americans would have Medicare insurance.
Currently, the Medicare system doesn’t include most dental, vision or long-term care, along with some more obvious non-covered items such as acupuncture and plastic surgery. Under Sanders’s new plan, dental and vision would be added as necessities to the universal healthcare plan, as well as maternity care that isn’t currently covered as people have to be 65 years old for Medicare.
There’s already a lot of support for Sanders’s proposed change, especially with the large fanbase of younger Americans that he gathered during his 2016 presidential campaign. While Sanders doesn’t expect the bill to pass this time around, he’s hopeful that it’s a start to get the United States closer to a single payer healthcare system. Sanders said early opposers would be “powerful and greedy” people, calling out the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies and the Republican Party as a whole.
Sanders noted that “The opposition to this (bill) will be extraordinary. They will spend an enormous amount of money fighting us. They will lie about what is in the program. They will frighten the American people.” Sanders knows that he’s likely to get blocked on his first attempt at the single payer system, but that he has support from millions of Americans and the United States Senate that could make his healthcare plan a reality.
Opponents to single payer healthcare say that taxes would become overbearing under the proposed bill, while others say that putting the plan in place for hundreds of millions of Americans would be too difficult to keep in place as a new party in power would be likely to repeal the bill or that the government will have too much control over healthcare. While true, Sanders notes that the benefits would far outweigh the negatives with his proposal.
“You’re going to the same private doctor that you went to (before the bill passes),” Sanders said. “You’re going to go to the same hospital that you went to. The only difference is instead of having a Blue Cross Blue Shield (insurance) card…you’re going to have a Medicare For All card. That’s it.” Polls vary in the amount of support that Sanders has, with some polls saying that just over 40 percent of Americans support the plan with as many as 53 percent.
Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to figure out what to do with American healthcare. Some support the current ACA program, some want to go back to the way things were, while others support Sanders’s proposal or even want another alternative. Many argue that the ACA in its current format is too limited to be beneficial for the American public, and that a change is needed. The biggest hurdle that lawmakers have faced, though, is figuring out what program they need to change to.
Presidential hopefuls for the next election are certain to use healthcare as one of their biggest policy talking points, with Sanders likely to be included. Many voters in the United States feel that healthcare needs to make a big change, and it’s likely to sway a lot of votes one way or the other depending on presidential hopeful’s policies. Don’t expect a change soon, but do expect to see dialogue and debate continue to increase in the coming years as Americans look for a big change.