As a progressive voter and self-described liberal, I have long been a proponent of universal health care. I believe that medical care is a right. I also believe that it is the responsibility of the government to provide for and protect all of its citizens. To me, there is a moral argument to be made for non-profit medical care for every American.
That moral argument is the one being made by those Democratic Presidential candidates who are in favor of “Medicare for All.” I understand that argument, but I think that there is an equally compelling case to be made for the economic benefits of universal health care.
Like most Americans, I’m well aware of the resistance to government-funded health care from the more conservative parts of the American electorate. But to be honest, I have never fully understood the opposition to making medical care available to everyone. With a view to assessing the push back from conservatives, I decided to look at how universal healthcare would impact the bottom line for those who pay for health insurance now.
Most Americans have health insurance through their employers, who pay part of the premium. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, private insurance plans supported by employers cost families an average of just under $8,000 dollars. This amount has increased by 67% in the past decade, far surpassing increases in wages (31%) and inflation (21%) in the same time period. This doesn’t count the costs of copays, deductibles, medicine and any non-covered services (like hearing aids, dental care, eye care).
That’s a lot of money to most people, including me.
But that money doesn’t cover all of the costs of health care. The average cost of health insurance is now $15,000 per employee. That amount has increased by roughly 50% in the past decade.
In other words, it currently costs more than $22,000 to insure an average family.
So, why aren’t business leaders clamoring to have the undue burden of insurance taken off of them?
Wouldn’t it be an economic boon to both private companies and the national economy if businesses could save the cost of insurance? Conservatives often claim that small businesses are hurt by taxes and government regulations, stating that increased costs prevent them from growing their companies. By freeing up roughly $15,000 per employee, businesses could invest in capital improvements. They could buy new equipment and technology. It seems clear that wages could increase and more people could potentially be hired.
I’d like to see the Democrats talking about this part of the story!
Studies show that Americans spend an average of 17% of our annual total expenditures on health insurance. And again, this amount is only the insurance itself. It doesn’t include all of those copays, medication costs, and deductibles.
Imagine if that money could be spent on consumer goods and services instead. Imagine how much economic growth could be gained if we all had an extra 17% of our money to spend every year! Even if taxes went up 15%, we’d come out ahead.
Once again, since this looks like another potential economic boom for the country, I fail to understand why my conservative friends would be opposing a move to universal healthcare.
Then there is the issue of insurance costs to cities and towns. I am curious about why city and town officials across the nation are not clamoring for a federally funded health insurance for all. As it is now, cities and small towns are responsible for providing insurance to nearly all employees. The city of Boston, for example, pays between $367 and $954 per month for family insurance per employee. Per MONTH.
In fact, health insurance costs are a large part of contract negotiations for teachers’ unions, police, fire, and other municipal workers. Having been part of municipal negotiations from both sides of the table, I know that if local and state governments could save the costs of insurance, budgets would immediately be improved. Local governments would be able to hire desperately need additional staff, adding first responders and teachers at a time when both are lacking. They could make improvements to schools and other municipal buildings and maybe offer more services to all citizens.
Why isn’t this fact obvious to those government representatives who call themselves “fiscal conservatives”?
More importantly, why isn’t this the argument being made by the likes of Senators Sanders and Warren? Why isn’t it being talked up by my progressive friends?
I don’t know.
Perhaps this article is a start.