A lack of universal healthcare looks different to every American. For some, it means skipping doctor appointments routine check-ups. For others, it means ignoring medical help when its an urgency, because the cost of the ambulance and emergency services is too much. For me, it meant my dad ignoring his emphysema and the dire need for health attention because he feared not being able to pay the hospital bills, which caused the disease to worsen to the point that he could not recover from until he died. After he died, because of the lack of healthcare, my family was debted with his medical bills, as he spent eleven days in the ICU prior to his death.
In 2017, about 28.5 million citizens of the United States of America did not have health insurance at any point during the year. That number is rising, and an even higher number of citizens are underinsured because of the high costs. The price of healthcare is so high that medical bills have become one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States, which leaves people with little options. Some find themselves taking second mortgages on their homes, or doing local fundraisers and GoFundMe pages, as one-third of the fundraisers on the site in 2018 were for medical bills. There is a flaw in the way that allows America to spend significantly more of the national GDP on an inadequate system as compared to other industrialized countries. In 2018, The United States of America spent 16.9% of the GDP on healthcare, in comparison to countries that offer universal healthcare systems. This includes Switzerland, who spent the second-highest, of about 12.2% of the GDP, and Finland, a country that has been running this system effectively for nearly 130 years, spends about 9.1% of the GDP to fund universal healthcare. For a country to be as advanced as the United States, there should be better policies set in place for healthcare. The government should represent the views of the poor and the vulnerable through policy.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, although most states range between the federal minimum to as high as $13.50. If someone works full time on the minimum wage, a forty-hour week, they will earn $290 before taxes. Most Americans spend their paychecks on their dire needs, including housing, food, and health. However, health insurance is expensive, along with all of these needs. The American average monthly cost of health insurance for one person on a standard plan is $462, or $199 with a subsidy. For low-income Americans, this is extremely hard to pay for in addition and forces people to have to prioritize their needs. A ripple effect that many do not realize, until its past the point of no return, is that not having coverage can lead to extremely high hospital bills that result from conditions not being treated, because people cannot afford their checkups or help that would prevent conditions from becoming extreme.
Universal healthcare coverage thrives when all people have access to adequate services that they need without enduring financial hardship. The importance of a policy that would provide this is that it would allow everybody to get the treatment they need. This policy would serve as a baseline of coverage across the country that there is better equality in resources of health.
“The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that healthcare is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.” – Bernie Sanders
Americans who support universal healthcare, or what a better future for health-related policies, have a voice that can be heard this year. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, candidates have been sharing their ideas for the future of health for the country. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has taken the lead in spreading his ideas for healthcare policies, with his “Medicare for All” bill proposal. The idea was introduced in 2019, and addresses the lack of comprehensive healthcare and offers a reform that improves: “patient care, reduces costs, and provides healthcare to everyone” (Feelthebern.org). Sanders’s plan defeats the concept that universal healthcare is a “radical” idea, and explains how it can work in America today and in the future. It will make the changes necessary so every American will be sufficiently covered and will be able to get the care that they need when they need it, without the financial burden.
On February 4th, Sanders spoke about implementing universal healthcare in Keene, New Hampshire. His audience was a mixture of local college students, teachers from across New England, and supporters of every kind from local areas and the surrounding states. He discussed his plan for the future of healthcare, along with his other principles that include lowering the cost of college tuition and taxing the upper class more equally in terms of their income. As described throughout his entire campaign, if elected, Sanders aims to implement policies that serve all people in the country, not just the wealthy 1%, as he proclaims. At the rally, when on the topic of healthcare, he explained that the country is in urgent need of reformation. An inclusive program is needed to ensure Americans are covered and so the private health care industry stops overcharging people, Sanders expressed. “Our message to the health care industry, the insurance companies, and the drug companies is very simple: You are going to stop ripping off the American people,” he said. Sanders is currently the only candidate running still for the 2020 election that stands for universal healthcare.