An American absurdity: a healthcare system that makes you pay with your life


Graphic by Caroline Dinh

A prominent issue during the 2020 election, it is time American healthcare be made universal.

Jennifer Lin, Opinions Writer

In a country often used as the model of progress and innovation, it is absurd that over a third of the American population has trouble accessing healthcare and a quarter struggle to get necessary medication. Since its inception, the healthcare industry has been structured to help businesses grow rather than Americans survive. Private companies, ranging from pharmaceutical to insurance, prioritize profit-maximization, and people who are unable to pay the high costs pay the price with their lives. But there is a clear solution: universal healthcare.

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the issues present in healthcare by collapsing an already fractured system. A top voting issue in the 2020 presidential election, then-candidate Joe Biden promised America he would repair and reform the structures that have been crumbling for the last few decades. Now that he has been elected president, Biden must hold on to his promise. If achieved, “Medicare for All” (MFA) would provide every American affordable healthcare and overhaul the entire industry, not only saving millions of lives but also putting an end to corporate America’s malpractice.

Unfortunately, conservatives have slandered MFA as an uprising of socialism that will poison the free market, preventing popular support for the policy. The term had been tokenized as a political tool rather than as a system that can change people’s lives. Despite the Republican party’s ploy to stigmatize the policy, Americans showed resounding support by reelecting all 112 House co-sponsors of the bill last November. In actuality, MFA is not a radically left initiative, rather a moderate policy that is falsely demonized by the ill-intentioned right.

A repeated conservative criticism is the presumably unreasonable costs that MFA could pose. Estimates show that it will cost around $34 trillion over ten years or roughly $3.4 trillion in a single year, compared to the $1.2 trillion that the federal government currently spends on healthcare. However, it is most probable that the plan would be financed through a combination of taxation and deficit spending. Over time, the policy would likely begin to pay for itself as not only would the majority of Americans save money on healthcare, but also have better health outcomes leading to higher worker productivity.

Opponents of the bill argue that the demand for care will skyrocket, causing increased waiting times in doctor offices and hospitals. Yet, it is absurd to argue that the inconvenience of long wait times overrules the benefits of universal access to healthcare. Although millions more having access to care may marginally increase waiting times or shortages, for tens of millions of Americans right now, those wait times are infinite.

The debate on MFA is not unique to the United States. Before the national healthcare system was implemented in the United Kingdom, there was strong opposition from the conservative wing of Parliament. But after people experienced going to the doctor without worrying about expenses and picking up medication without forking over cash, people started to fall in love with the idea of free healthcare. This explains why there is such high support for the healthcare system in Britain from people on both sides of the aisle. Only until action is taken will people in the United States change their perception about MFA, realizing that it does more to help than harm them.

Since Bill Clinton, every presidential administration has either failed or made minuscule progress in mending America’s crumbling healthcare system. MFA may not solve every problem associated with healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, but it is the first step towards much-needed change. As the wealthiest nation in the world, we must ensure no American is left worrying whether they can afford a life-saving surgery or accommodate the health of a loved one. It is time that the leader of the free world not lag behind its western neighbors and improve the health of America.