Understanding Medicare for All
October 29, 2019
Health care is one of the biggest issues currently up for debate among policymakers. There has been discussion of single-payer health care systems and Medicare for All, especially among the Democratic presidential candidates. With so many differing opinions on what type of system would be best for the country, it is helpful to take a step back and examine what Medicare for All would look like.
Medicare for All is a version of the single-payer health care idea that many people are talking about. Essentially, all Americans would receive health coverage under Medicare, the government health care plan currently available to seniors. Medicare was enacted in 1965 to provide universal health care coverage for those over the age of 65 and was later expanded to include those with disabilities. Under the Medicare for All plan, the age requirement would be dropped, and Medicare would become the default insurance plan for almost all Americans, replacing public and private insurance. All essential treatment would be covered, and patients would not have to pay a monthly premium or meet a deductible, like most do under private insurance plans.
There are many variations of Medicare for All, including versions of the proposal that would allow private insurance companies to offer competing plans or supplemental plans within the Medicare Advantage system, as they do now. Others argue not to drop the age requirement altogether but lower it to age 50, as adults aged 50 to 64 often face higher health care costs under private insurance.
Medicare for All versus Obamacare
The last big shift in U.S. health care policy was the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, which subsidized health care plans for those with low income or who were not eligible through their employer. While this substantially increased the number of insured Americans, many argue that the ACA did not go far enough, as there are currently more than 27 million Americans without any form of health insurance.
Proponents of Medicare for All argue that it will succeed where the ACA failed, allowing Americans to access the same quality of coverage regardless of their income or employment. A single-payer system would also keep costs low by empowering the government to negotiate lower rates with hospitals, drug companies, and health care providers.
Opponents of the idea cite the costs associated with the plan, which will result in higher taxes. People who like the insurance plan they are currently on would lose that coverage and have it replaced by something else. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries would also undoubtedly take a hit under any version of the proposal.
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