Health care has, rightly, become a politically advantageous issue for Democrats. They regained control of the US House of Representatives in 2018 largely because the party ran on protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in direct contrast to the Republican Party and Trump administration that had tried (but failed) to repeal the ACA – and roll back protection for people with pre-existing conditions – numerous times.
As the 2020 campaign heats up, health care is once again front and center.
The Democratic presidential candidates have made universal health care a key part of their campaign messages because the majority of Americans are in favor of some form of it, such as expanding Medicare and Medicaid. This would go well beyond the current provisions of the ACA.
But what exactly is universal health care? Let’s dive in.
Universal Health Care, In A Nutshell
Universal health care is a system that provides quality medical services to all residents (with some exceptions). The federal government offers it to everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and funds it usually through income tax, payroll tax, or a combination of the two.
In Canada, where I lived for 25 years, the government pays for health care provided by private companies. This is so for most developed nations that offer universal health care.
As a side note, when I left Canada in 2015 premiums were charged on a sliding scale based on income. I paid the highest premium for a single person at the time: $72 per month.
Note that when government pays private companies, this isn’t socialized medicine! Why? Because private companies, not the government, provide your care.
I know one of the common protests against, for example, Medicare For All, is invoking “But it’s socialized medicine!” since socialism has become a big boogeyman.
Now you know, this isn’t a true description. It’s only when the government both pays for and provides the services that it’s truly socialized medicine.
The US Already Has Socialized Medicine
Guess what? There are two huge socialized medicine systems in the US – have been for decades: the military, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(My active duty and veteran friends who rail against socialism are inevitably incensed when I point out they’re in a socialist system. Who knew the US military was a hotbed of socialism!)
How It Works Is Pretty Simple
The demand for universal health care began in 1948, the year the World Health Organization declared healthcare a basic human right.
Out of the 33 developed countries, 32 have universal healthcare. They use
one of the following three models:
Single-payer system: the government taxes its citizens to pay for health care. Twelve of the 32 countries have this system, and most use a combination of government and private service providers.
Insurance mandate: everyone is required to buy insurance, either through their employer or the government.
Two-tier approach: the government taxes its residents to pay for basic government health services, and people can also opt for services with supplemental private insurance.
A Program Whose Time Has Come
I confess I never thought I’d live long enough to see serious progress in the US on universal health care. In fact, at one point I thought about moving back to Canada because of the high cost of health care here.
Though I’ve since been accepted into the VA system, I realize I’m fortunate and this in no way has lessened my passion for ensuring all of us can afford quality health care. It hurts my heart when people who’ve worked hard all their lives and been financially successful are decimated by medical bills.
It also hurts my heart when anyone dies unnecessarily because they can’t afford their medications, or required treatment.
When the polls began to show the majority of Americans are in favor of expanding programs like Medicare and Medicaid, I took heart. One thing I know about us is when enough of us get our teeth into something, we’re not about to easily let go.
To me, there is no better proof of the tenacity and compassion of Americans than that we’ve pushed the serious Democratic presidential contenders to the left on health care. Change, when its time has come, tends to come quite quickly.