The case for Medicare For All, which, for the most part, in this argument can be considered a stand-in for any tax-based financing universal healthcare system, is not only the most ethical and moral system the United States can currently provide, but is also a boon for our national defense and is, in the long term, the most sound financial direction for our nation to take in regards to both total costs and productivity.
If that sounds like a lot to swallow, don't worry, at least it was free.
While we will attempt to avoid appeals to emotion/pity/etc that some unscrupulous and bad faith actors would use to simply throw this entire argument away, which would be factually incorrect and an argument from fallacy itself, we can not honestly approach a topic like Medicare For All and Universal Healthcare without speaking of the thousands of lives that would be saved annually and the extreme and eternal quality of life improvements the American public as a whole would experience under a Medicare For All system.
The Status Quo Kills
Prior to Obamacare, which helped improve coverage and dropped the number of uninsured by almost 20 million, an average of 26,240 Americans died each year between 2000 and 2006 due to not having insurance.
Which, according to Families USA, was more than double the number of Americans that are murdered each year.
Another study from 2009 by the Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard puts this number closer to 45,000 and concluded that uninsured working-age Americans have a 40% higher risk of death than insured working-age Americans.
Openly hostile private insurance companies and insidious lobbyists who fight against Medicare For All (and similar healthcare systems) are quite literally, intentionally or not, causing misery, death, and strife across the lives of hundreds of millions of people. The center can not, and we believe should not, hold. Fortunately, most people do not have to personally deal with the financial fallout of serious health issues before they qualify for Medicare, but that is not a sound argument against Medicare For All. To put one's head in the sand and to ignore the suffering of millions because it does not personally affect you has not historically worked out very well - for anyone.
...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
The second sentence of our own Declaration of Independence specifically mentions these three rights as the reasoning behind our need to "dissolve the political bands" between ourselves and Great Britain.
While the definition of the three keywords (life, liberty, happiness) are somewhat open to interpretation, we believe it is both fairly reasonable and typically agreed upon that a right to any of the three is guaranteed as long as it does not infringe upon one of the three for another person. We have covered a bit on life thus far, so let's tackle a bit of happiness.
As of the most recent World Happiness Report in 2019, the United States Ranks 19th, which of course is not too bad relative to the rest of the world.
However, it is worth noting that while some countries with universal healthcare rank below the United States, every single country above the United States provides Universal Healthcare (and many guarantee 'free' higher education through higher taxes on higher earners and high earning corporations).
While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, it very often points in the right direction. Happiness is, of course, based on more than health alone. However, happier people tend to be healthier people and vice versa.
Furthermore, and speaking once more on life, the United States ranked 37th in 2016 for life expectancy at 77.8 years. This is a full 4.4 years less than our neighbors to the north in Canada, who, by the way also rank 9th in the world happiness scale - again, significantly better than we do at 19th.
So on both life and happiness we are lagging behind... and dying - unhappily, but presumably relieved as our debt can no longer be sold or sought after. You know, since we're dead. So we've got that going for us.
... but liberty! Oh, liberty how we sing of thee. We've got a statue for that. Indeed, given to us by another nation providing Universal Healthcare [thanks France, oh and also for that whole helping us defeat the British thing...] and we sure care about it.
We care so much so that Trump's immigration chief, Ken Cuccinelli, has suggested that Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus", the famous poem adorning the inside of the pedestal of the Statute of Liberty, needs a modern rewrite. While he has not yet blessed us with his full edit, he did give us a hint of the direction he has in mind when he gave us the following line: "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Who Can Stand On Their Own Two Feet."
So while it should be concerning, it should not be surprising that on October 4th, 2019 Trump released a proclamation that suspends immigration unless immigrants prove they have insurance or enough money to pay for "reasonably foreseeable health insurance costs." This moves the United States' immigration system ever closer to a pay-to-play system. So much for "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." As a reminder, the Declaration of Independence does not claim these as rights for Americans, but for all humans. A reckoning for both the American consciousness and conscience is coming - or it may have already arrived.
Unsurprisingly there are rankings for liberty (if you read it as, essentially, freedom) and the first one we will be using is from the Cato Institute. Founded by Charles Koch (a major GOP donor), Murray Rothbard, and Ed Crane. In fact it was once called the Charles Koch Foundation.
According to their own research the United States ranked 17th in 2017 for one of the three primary things we, at least as a nation, claim to pride ourselves on and certainly a key objective the Cato Institute claims to chase and desire.
Another ranking, from Patrick Rhamey, a professor in the Department of International Studies at the Virginia Military Institute places the US outside of the top 10 in 2019, but in the top 20%. So again, not bad, but not what we claim to be after as a nation. PatrickRhamey.com
We've been close before...
One of our most successful, popular, and our longest serving president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, believed that the original rights granted by the constitution and bill of rights had not done enough to ensure the three main rights outlined in the declaration of independence, or as he stated: "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." FDR's "second Bill of Rights" [watch it or read it], unfortunately never came to fruition.
However, George C. Marshall, once FDR's Army Chief of Staff (which is highlighted specifically for the sake of this discussion, he did and was much, much more than that), would later, as Secretary of State under President Truman, implement the Marshall Plan. His plan, officially known as the European Recovery Program, aimed to lift Europe out of the ashes and catastrophic devastation of World War II. Several key objectives of FDR's ambitious "economic bill of rights" would find their way into the plan and arguably helped set the foundation for many of the economic and governmental systems now in place throughout much of Europe. Quelle coincidence.
As a nation, who are we? What do we want to be?
Without running the the entire gamut of moral and ethical universal healthcare arguments between then, now, and to come, it may serve better for the purposes of this argument to simply state that we believe much of the argument can be distilled into a quote given 40 years ago by Hubert Humphrey - the son of an immigrant - who served as a Vice President, Presidential Nominee, and Senator from Minnesota:
"It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
Vice President Hubert Humphrey
For those whose ears perk up, mouths water, and tails begin wagging when they hear the big elephant open the door and scream "TAX CUTS", please take notice of the steep decline the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" created for Corporations (making a single corporate tax rate of 21%)
and the relatively small drop for individuals - which, and here is the real kicker, will expire in 2025. Not for the corporations of course, just for the people. Some food for thought, if you're into that kind of thing.
Taxes are at a historically low rate. Medicare For All can be paid for by higher taxes on corporations and our highest earners along with an amount that is less than what average people already pay for insurance premiums and medical care.
The following charts track corporate profits and taxes over several decades. Click on the image to view the full-size chart. If you'd like to read more, view Corporate Tax Rates in the US
View full-sized versions of each chart:
Corporate Tax Rates 1909 - 2018 and Corporate Profits 1947 - 2019
All these corporate tax cuts while the annual deficit runs up to nearly double what it was under President Obama's final year in office (2016). And for what? What has been gained through this and for whom? Insurance premiums continue to rise at a rate pretty consistent for 30 years. What have we gained since? And yet the rates continue to climb while insurance companies break profit records year after year and some politicians claim we simply "can't afford it" when, again, it would likely cost less in total than our current system. At least the ACA (Obamacare) removed refusal to those with pre-existing conditions, allowed children to remain on their parents insurance until 26, expanded Medicaid, and now provides coverage for millions (CBO estimates 33 million by 2022 - of course that is if it isn't gutted first).
With all this, it is almost as if we have a group of pathological liars partially leading us for all of this to be true. So it probably isn't, right? Ahem, anyways, back to the financial discussion.
As a follow up thought, for those who believe the 1950s and 1960s (or even the 1970s for those heathens out there) were some golden age of low crime and lower taxes, let us present reality:
You can see that from 1936 until 1980 the top marginal tax rate rose as high as 94% and never dropped below 70% [note: at a point one could not be taxed more than 50% of their total income]. As a reminder, since many often forget and some do not know, one does not simply get taxed according to their final/top tax bracket. Only the money made above the top bracket is taxed at that rate. So if the tax rate is 50% at one million dollars and you make one million and one dollar you will only be taxed 50% on that final dollar. The rest would be subject to the appropriate tax brackets at the lower income levels.
Taxes will go up for some! However shall we survive? Well, probably quite a bit better and easier as a whole. In fact, over time we will almost certainly save money versus the current trend. At the end of the day, most people would prefer, on average, to be healthier and to keep more of their money than they care about their marginal or effective tax rates. Those who believe low tax rates to be some sort of holy indicator of logic and sound decision-making are likely to be surrounded by neither. If you fall into this latter group, you may want to ask yourself why. At least turn it over in your mind once or twice more.
So again, while taxes will have to go up as a whole, the overwhelming majority of Americans will save money when one combines the cost of their taxes, their insurance premiums, and their medical expenses.
This can be explained rather simply (perhaps too simply, but alas...) by imagining a single dollar. This is your dollar. Let's say taxes are currently 15 cents of that dollar and your medical costs (copays, prescriptions, premiums, etc) are another 10 cents. At the end of the year you are left with 75 cents to spend on the myriad of other expenses we are beholden to and maybe, if you're lucky or plan well enough, you may even manage to save some of that. Which is sadly quite uncommon as according to a CBS News Report, most Americans currently can not cover an unexpected $500 dollar emergency without going into debt.
Now if we roll Medicare costs into the tax system, premiums no longer exist. Prescription costs also need to be addressed (allow for negotiation as well as importation), and they too will cost us less as a whole. At the end of the day you may now pay 20 cents in taxes on that dollar, but you are now left with 80 cents instead of 75 cents. A net gain. Which, in the end, is what matters when it comes to budgets and one's finances. Additionally, we obtain the psychological relief of an entire nation that can collectively feel as it no longer has to worry about going bankrupt over a medical procedure. The average American quality of life would almost certainly go up.
Now, for the devout vulture capitalists out there, productivity is also proven to go hand in hand with happiness, so that too would likely improve. You could make even more money!
Many businesses have also found that having a four day work week actually creates more productive employees who end up completing more work in four days than they do in five. Sales-oriented professionals see even bigger gains. People will also be healthier which would, wait for it, lower both health costs and the burden on the system.
...but socialism! cries the dishonest and/or unaware amongst us. Yes, indeed, socialism! Spooky. Except it is socialism only in the sense that we as a nation have agreed to pay taxes to provide services for the people of our country. That is the kind of 'socialism' being discussed. The only red scare here is how much the ER will charge should you have the misfortune to bleed somewhere. Really, anywhere people don't tend to regularly bleed from. You shouldn't be scared to go somewhere when this happens. One of the first thoughts when in pain should not be: "How am I going to pay for this, should I even go? Can I afford it?"
That is indeed scary and unlike those who slippery slope their way to some Lenin and Stalin-esque fever dream of the means of production being stolen from them, this is actually founded in reality. People are forced to worry about current and potential medical costs every single day and it is completely unnecessary.
We will not even bother with the 'taxation is theft' and 'how will we have roads then' arguments. Those can stay at the end of the muddy and unpaved road of logic leading to your weird uncle's snake flag and his refusal to receive mail from the United States Postal Service or to have his hypothetical cousins of yours publicly educated (since those things would, of course, also be socialism and theft by his definition).
This is simple, really, we already do all sorts of things that could be defined as 'socialism' due to them being supported by taxes. This is because we are already in a partnership as a society and a nation with, at least in general, relatively similar goals. The problem for those that decry such public funding is that these things are really, really important - to nearly everyone. They include public education, social security, the military, and that which is much more important for this discussion: Medicare and Medicaid.
We already provide Medicare or Medicaid coverage to nearly 40% of the country. Medicare is also the most popular form of health insurance when it comes to costs and coverage. The wet paper towel supporting the rest of the system is already beginning to sag and fall apart. Again, the middle can not and will not hold. It will start, if it hasn't already, to adversly affect the 40% already on Medicare and Medcaid. So if you happen to be part of that 40%, you also have a vested interest in the system holding and expanding. We need you to help us. Please vote for candidates that support expansions to health coverage. Not high-risk pools (which double costs for those in them) and other farcical and already failed attempts at placating the sick, the tired, and the non-rich. It is dishonest, it is deliberate, and it is deadly.
According to research from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics BLS PDF and summarized in article by Advisory.com the poorest amongst us pay nearly 35% of their pre-tax income on healthcare. Those in the middle pay around 10%. Which is why we used 10 cents on the dollar in our example above. We are already paying for care that is not guaranteed, increases significantly year over year, and causes death, bankruptcy, anxiety, and fear.
We can do better, we have to do better, but again, we can not do that without your votes and your support.
There are already millions of providers who accept Medicare, which would only grow under a Medicare For All system - which is yet another incentive for those already on Medicare or Medicaid to support the movement. Interested in further reading on topics negatively effecting the less fortunate in the United States? We encourage you to visit our coverage of Food Deserts and Grocer Gaps in America