American Families Are Losers

Here’s Why We Need Single-Payer Medicare-For-All

Ed Raymond

Utah teacher Ann Lovell flies to San Diego and then is escorted across the border to Tijuana every few months to buy drugs to control her rheumatoid arthritis. Her flights are paid for by the state of Utah’s insurance carrier because, even with the flights and costs related to it, it’s much cheaper for her insurance company to buy her drugs in Mexico instead of Salt Lake City. An escort picks her up at the airport and takes her to a Mexican hospital where she gets a refill of her prescription. After that she’s shuttled back across the border to San Diego for her flight home. She gets a $500 bonus for making the trip! On January 20 the 159,000 doctors in the American College of Physicians voted to support a single-payer health system in the United States.

On January 21 over 2,000 doctors in the National health Program supported Medicare-for-All in a letter to the New York Times. Fifty-eight industrialized nations have some form of universal health care. The U.S. is ranked last in quality, efficiency, access, equity, and healthy lives in the 11 top-rated countries. The World Health Organization ranks us 37th globally among the top 58. We have the most expensive system with horrendous outcomes. The next most-expensive system is Switzerland’s, but we pay $8,000 more than the Swiss family annually for health care. Chicago nurses and hospital workers are striking because they can’t afford the high premiums of the health insurance programs their hospitals offer!

Darla and Andy Markley of Beloit, Wisconsin owed $34,000 for her month-long Mayo Clinic stay. They finally had to file for bankruptcy and lose their home because their health insurance didn’t cover much of the bill. Her Social Security disability checks were barely enough to cover her premiums. The couple joined 500,000 other American families forced to file bankruptcy in 2019 because of medical bills.  

The Lancet: “Medicare-For-All Will Save $450 Billion And 68,000 Lives Per Year”  

The Lancet is an English weekly general medical journal which has been around since 1823 and is considered to be the most reliable source of medical information in the world. It also publishes journals in the following areas: neurology, oncology, respiratory medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and infectious diseases. It publishes original research, review articles, and conducts original research on many medical topics. It just published a Yale University study of Medicare-For-All, a single-payer proposal of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders. The Lancet does not publish stupid stuff.

After analyzing the proposal, this was The Lancet’s conclusion: “A single-payer system akin to Sander’s plan would slash the nation’s (U.S.) health-care expenditures by 13 percent, or more than $450 billion, each year. Not only that, making health–care access for all Americans would save more than 68,000 lives a year.” The average American household would save over $2,400 a year because they wouldn’t be paying high premiums, co-pays, or high deductibles. American hospitals even spend $35 billion a year trying to collect unpaid bills. Bernie’s Medicare-For-All plan would also rid our world of dozens of insurance executives who currently “earn” more than $20 million each a year. That money should be spent on health care and sick people instead of hundreds of McMansions.

The Lancet figures that another $180 billion a year can be saved by negotiating drug prices with manufacturers. Three other prominent medical research teams have come to the same conclusion. They have also concluded that our healthcare “system” is still in the Dark Ages because technology has now made it possible to streamline medical care and the payment of services as well. If you are insured through United Health, as an example, you pay an administrative fee of at least 20% of your bill when your payment is made. Medicare and Medicaid administrative fees are in the 2% range. A Harvard University study, which agrees with the Lancet conclusion, states the average American pays $2,597 per year for administrative costs while a Canadian pays only $551.

In fact 22 other single-payer studies agreed with the conclusion of the Lancet study. Is healthcare a privilege or a right? Who gets rich from sick patients? How do you save money in the healthcare field? Isn’t the only way to save money is to keep people healthy and out of hospitals? Now we have private equity venture capitalists buying group practices with the intent of maximizing income over a couple of years and then selling the group practices. Medicare-For-All would eliminate such greedy practices of making obscene, exorbitant profits at the expense of sick people. If there is a Hell, that’s where venture capitalists in the healthcare business should go directly to for making big profits off the sick.  

Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Would Cover Ever-Increasing Mental Health Problems  

Young workers are coming to jobs with increasing mental problems due to severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders mostly caused by student debt. Besides these new problems, we presently have hundreds of thousands of the mentally ill on the streets and in jails every night and day because there are fewer than 40,000 beds available in psychiatric hospitals in the United States.

The warden of the Cook County jail in Chicago has said that on any one night half of his 12,000 prisoners are mentally ill. Because of laws and policies we have lost 450,000 mental hospital beds since the 1950’s, including 12,000 since 2005. That’s because of a federal policy called the Institutions for Mental Disease Exclusion Act (IMDE) passed by Congress in 1965. The IMD Exclusion prevents Medicare and Medicaid from funding care for mentally ill adults while they live in hospitals or homes with more than 16 beds. The law was passed so that states would have to assume the costs of caring for the mentally ill, not the federal government. This law has been an absolute disaster for the mentally ill because states have failed to assume responsibility. Estimates are that at least half of the 600,000 homeless every night fall into the category of mentally ill.

If Medicare-For-All becomes law the federal government would be responsible for the treatment of the mentally ill. The number of the mentally ill in jail, prisons, and on the street about equals the ratio of those who were in psychiatric intuitions in the 1950’s.

We have a lot of work to do. Many business districts in the U.S. have actually been turned into homeless camps. Because of high student debt and other economic and societal ruptures, young adults 18-25 have the highest prevalence of serious mental illness among all age groups at 7.5%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That compares with 5.6% for ages 26-49, and 2.7% for those 50 and over.  

How Much Are We Currently Spending For Healthcare? What Do We Get For It?  

Our current spending for health care is $3.6 trillion. With thousands of health insurance companies, with their own forms and administrative costs, we spend between 20 and 30% of total costs just administering their policies. If we move to a single-payer system such as Medicare-For-All we will spend only 2% on administration. The Lancet states we will then free up $450 billion to actually spend on sick patients instead of paper shuffling. The organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) estimates the average American spends $10,500 a year on healthcare. The federal government says it is even higher at $11,172—and we still have 28 million with no insurance and 59 million with inadequate insurance.

Fully one-fourth of American families have put off medical care because of costs. One in five has contributed funds to GoFundMe or other crowdfunding campaigns. Thirty-four million Americans have reported that a friend or family member died because they couldn’t afford medical treatment. Over 70% of Americans support Medicare-For-All. To compare, all of the following countries have universal care and spend much less: Germany-$6,000, France-$5,000, Canada-$5,000, and Great Britain-$4,000. Americans on average live about three fewer years. Our top 10 Percent live 20 years longer than our bottom 90 Percent.

Our One Percent live at least 25 years longer than our bottom 99 Percent. A baby born in China has a life expectancy of 82 years while one born in Washington, D,C. will live 78 and a New York baby will die at 81. Poor American men have the same life expectancy as men in Sudan and Cambodia. Rwanda has a higher share of girls vaccinated to prevent cervical cancer than we do. If we had the same mortality rates for children as those countries with universal care, we would save the lives of 21,000 babies. The average cost of a good private family health insurance plan is now $20,000 a year.

More than 70 million Americans have no dental insurance. The Gallup Poll reports that Medicare has a 82% approval rating, private insurance has a 65% rating, while the uninsured have only a 41% approval rating for the present system.  

More Questions For Congress And Political Candidates  

1. LaDawn Stuben of Tempe, Arizona asks: “Why does my Symbicort inhaler cost $110 in Tempe and $20 in Mexico? Why does my rescue inhaler albuterol cost $75 in Tempe and $3 in Mexico?

2. John Miller of Chicago has Crohn’s disease and must take Entyio each month at a cost of $1,800. Even with his insurance his co-pay is $900--which is more than his rent. John is disabled so he has to keep filing for bankruptcy every year or so to get the drug. He joins 500,000 other Americans who go bankrupt each year because of medical bills.

3. The Pardecks of Fenton, Missouri have a five-year-old daughter with spinal bifida who requires catheters and enemas that are not covered by their family health insurance plan. They spend $2,000 a month out of pocket for her prescriptions and supplies and they owe thousands of dollars to banks and credit cards. Can we help these people?

4. The EpiPens for countering allergic reactions were priced at $57 in 2007 but were $600 by 2016. That’s gouging. What have you done about that?

5. The Sackler family has made $13.4 billion from overselling Oxycontin and other opiods and are responsible for most of the 450,000 Americans who have died from overdoses. Why aren’t they in jail? They have damaged millions of lives. They live in exclusive luxury homes in London, New York, Beverly Hills, the Hamptons, and luxurious estates in Connecticut, Texas, and England.

6. What are you doing to save the dialysis patient who got stuck with a $500,000 bill for 14 weeks of treatment? It was a surprise bill because he was “out of network.”

7. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that 24% of adults and 23% of senior citizens had difficulty paying for prescription drugs in 2019. A Gallup Poll reinforced the Kaiser poll by finding that 22.9% of Americans could not afford their prescriptions. The drug companies continue to increase prices to make excessive profits on the sick. Drug companies were responsible for 69% of the profits in our health care “system” while they collected only 23% of the health industry’s revenues.