One of the greatest achievements of the United States since the end of WWII has been a consistent increase in life expectancy. But this remarkable record is no longer in effect. For the first time since the early 1960s, the life expectancy of Americans has declined for two years in a row and it is projected that many in the most recent generation will not live as long as their parents. The only people for whom life expectancy continues to climb in the U.S. are those whose age (over 65 years) makes them eligible for Medicare.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) marked a tremendous step forward in access to health care for many Americans. The plan was enacted with the laudable goal of extending health insurance coverage to thirty million Americans. Though the act has been hotly debated ever since, it has facilitated expanded coverage. However, the ACA was designed with inherent flaws and is not up to the challenges we face. One of the most crucial components of the act, the subsidized mandate that everyone purchase coverage, was, in effect, a massive gift to insurance companies. This created a system of federal subsidies paid to private health insurance providers who offered policies that qualified but left patients facing astronomical deductibles while remaining severely underinsured. Even if the ACA operated unhindered, we would still face a situation where nearly thirty million Americans would remain uninsured by 2023 and tens of millions of other will be underinsured. But, the ACA is not operating as intended. The crucial mandate and the Medicaid expansion that was included in the ACA have been under continual attack ever since its passage and have recently been rolled back.
Our current health care system, in which most Americans get their health insurance from private corporations, is one of the most expensive and ineffective in the world. Almost one-third of the $3.2 trillion we spend on health care goes towards administration and does nothing to improve or protect our health. This extravagant expenditure is undermining our national economy, as health care costs for employees often account for the largest portion of American businesses’ expenses. The three biggest U.S. automakers combined spend almost seven billion dollars per year just in health care costs. Despite this, our health outcomes lag behind almost every industrialized nation on the planet for every age group other than those over sixty-five who are eligible for Medicare. Private health insurance providers place corporate profits first, which means the quality of our care and the ability to negotiate the cost of services, medical equipment, and prescriptions, these state plans would suffer the continued increases in prices that plague our current system.
The system President Truman proposed was the first of many efforts in the U.S. to establish what is essentially a federally-run health insurance program available to all Americans: the public option. In its most current incarnation, the public option would be little different from private health insurance other than it would be available to every American. This version of the private option would compete with private insurance but would not offer significantly lower costs other than to the least healthy or those in the most need of significant health care. This option would offer tremendous benefits to those in most need, but, as laid out most recently, would offer limited opportunities to reduce the cost of healthcare for most Americans. The public option, much like proposals to expand Medicare or Medicaid, presents an opportunity to make a great leap forward but does not go far enough to solve the persistent problems in our healthcare system.
The real solution to our health care crisis is a single-payer, universal system of health care coverage provided by the federal government. This is the only approach that offers the opportunity to control costs, ensure that every single person in the country is covered, and guarantees the highest quality.
SINGLE-PAYER, UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
Under a single-payer, universal system, every person in the U.S. would be able to receive treatment at any health facility that receives any public funding without incurring any cost for that action. The federal government would cover all costs through a fund supplied by all Americans according to their ability to pay. Coverage would include all medical necessities, from doctor and hospital visits, prescriptions, medical devices, supplies that fall under the categories of essential health benefits, mental health, vision, dental, long-term care, reproductive health, and medical management programs. Replacing premiums, deductibles, co-pays, unnecessary complexity and administration, and the overwhelming profit motive of the current system with a modest tax spread across the entire population based on individuals’ ability to pay would lead to immediate savings for 95 percent of all American families.
Freeing physicians from the constraints of for-profit medicine will yield better health outcomes and greater patient satisfaction. With more time to treat patients and less time spent filing paperwork, our healthcare providers will be better able to diagnose, treat, and prevent health problems. Unconstrained by a need to generate profits, healthcare providers will be able to recommend diagnostic procedures and treatments based on need rather than financial considerations. Patients will enjoy more personal attention and will retain the full opportunity to choose their healthcare provider.
Adopting a single-payer, universal health care system is one of the most effective programs for job-creation and economic stimulus we can enact. The health care industry currently employs about 600,000 people, most of whom have the skills and experience to transfer to other industries with relatively little disruption. Implementing this health care program is expected to create 2.6 million new jobs and to generate $300 billion in new revenue for U.S. businesses. When we free employers from the burden of providing health insurance to their employees, we will put U.S. business on a competitive footing with companies in other nations. This will keep jobs in the U.S., reduce overhead, and improve wages. We cannot afford to remain the only industrialized nation on the planet that does not provide single-payer, universal health care.
Women's Reproductive Rights
Planned Parenthood is a crucial provider of services vital to the health and well-being of many women in our nation, and partisan politics has no place in that discussion. It is a woman's right to make her own health decisions.
We cannot allow right-wing state legislatures to implement legislation that endangers women's health. I fully support H.R. 1322, introduced by Representative DelBene. This piece of progressive legislation will prevent states from blocking women's constitutionally protected rights to reproductive health care.
Mental health treatment is sorely lacking in the US. We must remove the stigmas attached to treatment and make mental health a basic element of the health care system.
The nation made great strides in this direction in 2016 with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. There is a great deal left to be done. We need to implement a comprehensive early-screening program so that mental health issues can be caught early in life, enabling kids have the best chance for success through treatment. We need to consider mental heath care as what it is: health care. That will increase access to treatment and reduce the stigma attached. The second leading cause of death in the US for children between the ages of 10 and 24 is suicide. We must stop this epidemic. Mental health care for all is the first step.
As your representative in the United States House, I will work to make this a reality through a comprehensive system of actions.
We cannot pursue any move towards a single-payer, universal coverage plan that places the current access to healthcare of any American in a less secure position for any duration of time. I will work to protect and expand every health care safety net that currently exists, especially Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, and the Veterans Health Administration. As we secure those programs, we can move forward to a better system that saves money for the nation and its citizens and provides every resident with health care.
The best existing proposal to create a single-payer universal system of health care in the U.S. is the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, HR 676. This bill provides the framework to create the system of coverage outlined above while authorizing the federal government to negotiate drug prices and the cost of services and provide funds for capital improvement projects. This bill has gained support over the course of the last decade and as of this writing counted 120 co-sponsors. This is the only proposal that exists with the potential to reign in the meteoric rise in the costs of health care. We would save over $400 billion per year, simply by cutting the redundancies and inefficiencies that exist in the administration of the private health insurance industry that currently controls healthcare in the U.S. Health care costs are increasing under every system on the globe, but are doing so most slowly in those nations with single-payer universal health care systems under effective national regulation. We must get these costs under control to reduce the unequal burden they place on the most vulnerable in our nation.
Family health practice is one of the areas where I will work most diligently to create improvements. I will work to create a new and expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that will include physicians who choose family practice for student loan forgiveness. This will incentivize family practice by reducing one of the most significant barriers to entry. This, as well as the capital improvement fund, will be a major benefit for our rural communities, which are some of the most underserved when it comes to health care facilities. I will also work to double the number of available residencies in the U.S. to eliminate the artificial shortage created and maintained by the American Medical Association and Medicare. To further expand access to family health care and preventative medicine, it is time that we recognize and approve advanced practice nurses to provide this type of care.