Health Care: Universal and Government Involvement

Health Care: Universal and Government Involvement

Becoming and staying healthy can be an expensive proposition. Very few people have the wherewithal to pay cash for things like doctor visits, medical testing, hospitalization and prescription medicines. That’s where medical insurance comes in.

People obtain medical insurance through the following means: as a benefit from their employers, through the Social Security Agency (Medicare) due to retirement or disability, through insurance brokers purchased as individual policies, through the Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) exchanges or through Medicaid and free clinics. Those who can’t afford insurance forego it completely, sometimes at the cost of medical itself.

Typical Costs

Even with insurance, expenses can add up quickly. The associated costs include:

  • Monthly premiums — Someone owes a (normally monthly) fee to the insurance plan provider. It may be an employer that provides coverage as a perk to employees, or it may be the individual who is covered by the policy, but somebody must pay the underwriter.
  • Deductibles — This is the percentage of the cost born by the patient for things like surgery, medical testing, physical therapy, hospitalization and the like. Each plan is different. So, an 80/20 program means the insurer picks up 80% of the bill and the insured is responsible for 20%. There is generally a preset limit for total out-of-pocket payouts by the insured, after which the company covers 100%. It’s not uncommon for the ceiling to be $5,000 to $15,000 or even more.
  • Co-Pays — This is a fee (ordinarily modest) one pays to the service provider such as the doctor or pharmacy. Prescription Drug Coverage is not always available. When it is, it increases the monthly premium in most cases.

The overall concept is that premiums are paid in by a large number of people, with the younger and healthier individuals taking less out, thereby leaving plenty to cover the illnesses and injuries of the rest.

Government Single-Payer

The idea of having the Federal Government provide insurance to all citizens gathered steam during the 2008 Presidential Election. People were tired of facing two unpalatable options, paying out big bucks for insurance coverage or doing without. The term “universal healthcare” is a dichotomy. It sounds like a simple concept, yet defining it seems to be elusive.

Here in the 2020 election cycle, the phrase “Medicare-for-all” has been coined. Presidential nominee hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders has rolled out one such plan. In a nutshell, it envisions an America where every person is covered by a program that pays for all medical treatment, including vision and dental, coverage of which is minimal to nonexistent for most people today. Other plans have been put forth by others seeking the Oval Office,

Depending on how much Washington would provide, the estimated cost to taxpayers varies. One study estimates that an all-inclusive proposition could cost $32 trillion over ten years. That’s a lot of money, even for the richest country the world has ever known. To put that in perspective, the entire federal budget for the fiscal year 2020 is just about $4.75 trillion. That would mean adding an additional 65% to the current number. And, the source of that money? The taxpayers. It looks like the word “free” denotes a relative concept in this case.

Anybody who would proffer the argument that the healthcare system in the United States isn’t broken is either delusional or a liar, or maybe both. But razing the current structure and building something better and stronger is likely to be a divisive and expensive process.

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