An Introduction to Medicare For All

Austin Goodwin
Houston DSA Medicare For All Working Group

Introduction

In my senior year of high school I had the pleasure to work in a Houston area community hospital. The area in which I worked would easily be considered a low income community. The people that I interacted with seldom had any form of health insurance at all or would be saddled with policies that required high out of pocket deductibles, copayments, various fees, and restrictive networks of providers. In fact, the only people who seemed the least worried about the financial burden of their care would be those with a form of public insurance such as Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). However, for those who had been left behind by the country’s weak and dwindling social safety net, the look in their eyes as they were being connected to life saving treatments was that of immense fear and anxiety about the inevitable bills that would roll in shortly after their discharge. I remember the experience I had with one twenty something year old woman suffering from an asthma attack as the nurse asked her a series of questions. The nurse asked this woman if she had gotten insurance since the last time she was at the emergency department. The woman, with hardly any air in her lungs and tears rolling down her face, answered with a “No”. When the woman was further questioned, it was determined that she could have avoided the trip to the hospital if she would have been able to fill her medications to treat her asthma. She told the nurse, doctor, and myself that she would have much preferred to take her medicines than to end up in the care of our team, but there was no way she could afford the hundreds of dollars every month to get the scripts filled. In the end, she was given basic treatment for an asthma attack and was discharged with a short term inhaler.

The unfortunate reality of this story is that it is not an uncommon story at all. The United States boasts the highest rate of citizens without any form of healthcare coverage among high income and developed countries. Every day and night there are those in this country who live in fear of the next health emergency for them and their loved ones. However, it most certainly doesn’t have to be this way. Around the world and on every continent, countries have found ways to provide healthcare to each and every citizen and resident. The ways in which they do this varies greatly from one place to another but they each share a vision of a life without fear of the financial burden of illness and injury. The United States should and must pass a nation-wide single payer health insurance (Medicare for All) program that would cover each and every one of us from the moment in which we are born until the day we pass to whatever is next.

What Would Medicare For All Mean?

It is often difficult in the current situation to imagine what life would be like if the lawmakers of this country decided to implement a single payer insurance system. Today, Bernie Sanders is the only US Senator that has put forward a comprehensive bill to accomplish just that. This bill (which has garnered the support of around a third of Democrats in the senate) would create a new universal Medicare program that would gradually cover every American for their comprehensive medical needs. Every person would be covered for doctors visits, preventative care, lab and diagnostic services, emergency care, hospitalization, surgical procedures, prescription drugs, dental care, vision, mental health, and a whole host of women’s health services including newborn, maternal, and reproductive care. All of these services would be covered with ZERO out of pocket costs (deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other various fees). Every patient would be free to choose the doctor, hospital, and/or provider of their choice. While funding mechanisms for the program are not completely set in stone, the most popular ways to fund the program would include a tax on employer and employee payroll (how the current Medicare program is largely financed) and a tax on high value financial transactions in the stock market. This would mean a significant reduction in how much the average American pays in health insurance premiums. The average annual premium for families in the US today is over $6,200 (around $515 per month). Under a Medicare For All system, the average working family would only need to pay around $466 (just under $40 per month) if they make around $50,000 per year (those making less income would in turn pay less and those earning more would also pay more). These cost reductions would be even more dramatic for employers who currently spend on average over $17,500 per year to provide family coverage. Under the Medicare for All plan, employers would pay only $3,100 per year for an employee earning $50,000 a year in income. These figures are even more impressive when considering that beneficiaries would also receive better healthcare options at no out of pocket cost as opposed to what they currently have.

We all could enjoy the piece of mind that if we or our loved ones suffered from an illness or injury, we would never be burdened by the crushing cost of healthcare services. When we visit our doctor, all we must do is present our medicare card and be seen without any handing over of money. When we need a surgical procedure, we choose a facility that is best known for its standard of care and proximity to home, not whether it’s in our insurance network. When we have a medical emergency, we can be treated by world renowned doctors and compassionate nurses without the worry of an impending bill of many thousands of dollars. When we require life changing drugs to treat our ailments, we can fill them at the pharmacy every time without anxiety. When life throws at women an unplanned pregnancy, she can choose whether childbirth is in cards for her or she can choose where to give birth to a healthy and happy baby. When life comes to its inevitable end for all of us, we can choose how we want to be treated whether fighting for life in a hospital bed or in our homes surrounded by the ones we love. The conservatives of this country often talk about how single payer will eliminate choices some of us currently enjoy. Medicare for All however will bring forward the true liberation of choice and care that we all yearn for. The local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America are working hard to ensure that this reality is possible. Medicare For All is the only solution to a broken and dysfunctional healthcare system truly worth fighting for. A better (and healthier) future is possible.


The Houston DSA Medicare For All Working Group meets the third Wednesday of every month.  Follow our calendar to learn about these and other DSA events in Houston.  

Find out more information about DSA’s Medicare For All effort  here:  https://medicareforall.dsausa.org/.