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The United States has the most dysfunctional, inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive health care system in the world.
That’s not just what I believe. That’s what the American people know to be true. According to a March 2022 survey by Gallup and West Health, an estimated 93 percent of American adults feel what they pay for health care is not worth the cost. That poll also showed that 64 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the availability of affordable health care.
Today, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we now spend an unbelievable $12,530 per person for health care. Yes. $12,530 for every man, woman and child in this country.
Despite this huge expenditure, 30 million Americans have no insurance at all and 112 million struggle to pay for the health care they need.
Further, we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs with nearly 1 out of 4 patients unable to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.
Despite spending more than twice as much on healthcare as the average developed country our health outcomes are worse than most. For example, our life expectancy is about 4.5 years lower than Germany’s and we have the highest infant mortality rate of almost any major country on earth.
While the current system is not working for ordinary Americans, it is working VERY well for insurance and drug companies and their CEOs.
Last year, the six largest health insurance companies in America made over $60 billion in profits, led by the UnitedHealth Group, which made $24 billion in 2021. The CEOs of 178 major health care companies collectively made $3.2 billion in total compensation in 2020 – up 31% from 2019.
According to Axios, in 2020, the CEO of Cigna, David Cordani, took home $79 million; the CEO of Centene, Michael Neidorff, made $59 million; and the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, Dave Wichmann, received $42 million in total compensation.
In terms of the pharmaceutical industry, last year Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie – three giant pharmaceutical companies – increased their profits by over 90 percent to $54 billion and the CEOs of just 8 prescription drug companies made $350 million in total compensation in 2020.
The Medicare for All Act of 2022 which I have just introduced with 15 co-sponsors would provide comprehensive health care coverage to every man, woman and child in our country – without out-of-pocket expenses and with full freedom of choice regarding health care providers. No more insurance premiums, deductibles or co-payments. And comprehensive means the coverage of dental care, vision, hearing aids, prescription drugs and home and community based care.
The transition to the Medicare-for-all program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered.
In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.
Would a Medicare-for-all health care system be expensive? Yes. But, while providing comprehensive health care for all, it would be significantly LESS costly than our current dysfunctional system because it would eliminate an enormous amount of the bureaucracy, profiteering, administrative costs and misplaced priorities inherent in our current for-profit system.
Under Medicare for All there would no longer be armies of people billing us, telling us what is covered and what is not covered and hounding us to pay our hospital bills. This not only saves substantial sums of money but will make life a lot easier for the American people who no longer have to fight their way through the nightmare of insurance company bureaucracy.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Medicare for All would save Americans $650 billion a year.
Now, trust me. I know the 30-second ads coming from the insurance and drug companies will tell you that if Medicare for All becomes law, your taxes will go up. And they are correct. But what they won’t tell you is that under Medicare for All, you will no longer be paying premiums, deductibles and co-payments to private health insurance companies.
And what they certainly will not tell you is that Medicare for All will save the average family thousands of dollars a year. In fact, a study by RAND found that moving to a Medicare-for-all system in New York would save a family with an income of less than $185,000 about $3,000 a year, on average.
Now, if Medicare for All was so great, you might ask, why hasn’t it been enacted by now? Why hasn’t the United States joined every major country on earth in guaranteeing health care for all?
Well, the answer is pretty simple. Follow the money. Since 1998, in our corrupt political system, the private health care sector has spent more than $10.6 billion on lobbying and over the last 30 years it has spent more than $1.7 billion on campaign contributions to maintain the status quo. And, by the way, they are “bi-partisan.” In fact, they own many of the politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective; it also happens to be what the majority of the American people want. In 2020, in a Hill/Harris poll 69 percent of the American people supported providing Medicare to every American.
Now is the time for Congress to stand with the American people and take on the powerful special interests that dominate health care in the United States. Now is the time to improve and extend Medicare to everyone.
Here is the bottom line: If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, there is no reason, other than greed, that the United States of America cannot do the same.