The health care debate has gone back several presidencies, with party leaders unwavering in their opinions on the issue. Sup- ported by 17 of his colleagues (as of print), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been the leading voice for a proposal of a single-payer system of health care that would ensure that every American would be given the coverage they need. Sanders’ proposal involves placing every American under one insurance system paid for by the federal government, rather than leaving them to obtain coverage through their employer or, more problematic still, to locate their own individual plan from any of the multitudes currently available on the private market. This would, hopefully, reduce the immense sums of money insurance companies are prone to charge for health care necessities, and cut out the middlemen involved in the industry.
Sanders’ proposed “Medicare for All” Act would expand Medicare coverage, with the fed- eral government creating a budget allocated for covering health services. It would also cover re- productive and maternity health, both of which are often not included in insurance companies’ plans. Likewise, the government would issue a standardized list of drugs covered under insur- ance, with the Secretary of Health and Human Services discussing appropriate prices with drug companies; doctors would be reimbursed by the government rather than through private insurance companies; and providers would have to apply to be under the program each year (New York Times, “Bernie Sanders: Why We Need Medicare for All,” 09.13.17).
Sanders has proposed several strategies to pay for this program, including higher taxes on the top one percent of earners. However, the cost will be immense, and potential limits may emerge. Republicans, who remain steadfast in their long-held goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act, are in control of both the House and the Senate, and the likelihood that this bill will pass in the near future is slim. The United States already spends over 17 percent of its GDP on health care, which is, in spite of its arguably in- adequate health outcomes, more than any other country (CNBC, “Trump Calls Single-Payer a Curse but it Makes Health Care Better,” 09.15.17). No matter the cost, however, this country must head toward a single-payer system to ensure universal access to basic health care.
It bears mentioning that in this fight, Democrats are not proposing a radical idea. In fact, most Western countries have had universal health care for decades. According to the World Health Organization, the United States has the 37th best health care system in the world, ranked between Costa Rica and Slovenia. While we struggle with a health care crisis, other countries such as France, Japan and Singapore—all of which have some form of a single-payer system—are thriving, and all the while their citizens pay less than Americans do (World Health Organization, “Measuring Overall Health System Performance for 191 Countries,” 2013).
While Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect given its complex and unsatisfac- tory combination of private and government health insurance, it established a precedent that set us on course to acknowledge the right of ev- ery American to have access to health care.
With insurance prices steadily rising along with our national debt, a shift in health care pol- icy is essential to keeping the United States and its citizens afloat. Although often overlooked, this discussion is critical, and the idea that some people deserve health care more than others is absurd. Health care should be a universal right for every individual, and this country—and both parties—must collaborate in solving this crisis.
This past July, the GOP’s “repeal and replace” mentality toward Obamacare gained an alarming amount of ground in the Republican-controlled Congress. “Trumpcare” seemed like a grim inevitability. The Better Care Reconciliation Act, proposed earlier this year, was an affront to the American people, and would have left many millions without coverage, slashed Medicaid, drained special education funds and priced individuals out of insurance for outrageously defined “pre-existing conditions.”
In their most successful and dangerous bid to replace Obamacare, the GOP came under heavy fire for drafting their legislation behind closed doors, foregoing Congressional hearings and limiting the press’ ability to request details on the bill. The Los Angeles Times, one of count- less publications that spoke out against the bill, wrote, “The GOP’s secretive process marks a sharp departure from the traditional way the Senate has developed large, complex bills, which are often debated for years with multi- ple committee hearings to ensure broad input and careful analysis” (“Republican secrecy fac- es mounting criticism as GOP senators work behind closed doors to replace Obamacare,” 06.16.17). In retaliation, citizens organized en masse to publicly voice their opposition, stag- ing rallies and calling their senators. This outcry led Republican dissenters Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and, eventually, John McCain to cast the decisive votes against the bill in response to their constituents.
Public opinion clearly makes an impact, a critical fact to keep in mind as Republican senators continue pushing misguided and wildly dangerous health care plans whose offenses barely differ from those of their predecessors (NY Times, “New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death,” 09.13.17). Now more than ever, we must lift our voices in defense of fundamental rights. The “Medicare for All” Act is an opportunity to flip the script, to push for the idealistic progress that once buoyed support for Bernie Sanders on Vassar’s campus and across the country during the 2016 primaries. Those ideals may feel less attainable in the current political climate, but they are far from dead. Now is not the time for silence, especially in light of the bill’s sponsorship by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom are rumored to be hopefuls in the 2020 presidential election. A progressive backlash with universal health care at its ideological core could be the first step to- wards victory and justice after or even during the Trump presidency.
“Trumpcare” falls directly in line with our worst fears for this country. Limiting access to life-saving medications and treatment is economically unreasonable at best, and at worst a slippery slope towards eugenics tactics. It is a direct attack on the poor, the disabled and, ac- cording to Trumpcare’s infamous list of pre-existing conditions, every transgender person in America. While it is vital that opposition to this unconscionable movement remains mobilized, we must proactively push for the equitable America we continue to envision. It is still possible, as long as we continue to fight for it.
The public can and must do far more than just react to Trump’s America. We as a campus must speak out for progress, not only as individuals, but also as an institution. It is Vassar’s job to ensure that all of its students are safe and supported, and advocating for the “Medicare for All” Act is one important step in fulfilling this obligation. We at The Miscellany News support Sanders’ proposed plan in the strongest possible terms and call on the Vassar College administration to publicly join us in the fight for universal health coverage for every member of our community and our country.
—The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board.