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Universal Healthcare

This one is so obvious it hurts. No longer can we keep messing around with adjusting age coverage and CEO incentives. We need to make the jump to universal healthcare, where all forms of healthcare — including all clinical care, holistic care, rehabilitation, prescriptions, dental, vision, ambulance rides, therapy, and more — are free, accessible, equitable, and high-quality for everyone in the country. Our neighbors along our northern and southern borders both have comparable universal systems that perform better than ours in nearly every metric, along with dozens more countries around the world. Demand for healthcare is not (or at least should not be) affected by marketing and product quality. That’s what makes our mostly privatized healthcare system a market failure. There are many reasons to transition to universal healthcare, but the biggest are humanitarian and economic.

Just like any American patriot wouldn’t leave a fellow wounded soldier behind on the battlefield, it’s incumbent upon us as American citizens to care for our ill community members. It’s really that simple.

When we think of taxes, we often think of public taxes (ie. income tax, payroll tax, and sales tax). We often don't think about private taxes. Private taxes are the prices we pay for systems, especially systems we cannot avoid, that don't work efficiently. Our current medical insurance system is an enormous private tax we all pay in the form of monthly bills, deductibles, co-pays, low-quality care, emergency treatment, bureaucracy, and unnecessary overhead and administration. Universal healthcare eliminates or dramatically reduces all of these private taxes while increasing high-quality care. This results in a decrease in your net taxes. Universal healthcare is a tax cut. And this doesn't even take into account the increase in economic productivity from having a healthier populace.

Dramatically reducing or eliminating the profit motive from healthcare has a huge variety of positive effects. Commissions for writing prescriptions has led to an over-reliance on clinical medicine when lifestyle adjustments and holistic approaches would fare much better. And the prices of those medications currently are astronomically higher than in other countries because pharmaceutical companies are entirely profit-driven entities, despite many of our medications being invented right here in university and government-funded labs. Chief among price-gouged medicine is insulin, one of the cheapest mass-produced medicines in the world, necessary for 10s of millions of diabetic Americans, which is inhumanely protected by Intellectual Property laws, allowing manufacturers to monopolize the market and kill people by artificially jacking up prices. Countless medical professionals who chose to leave their profession due to the stress of artificial restrictions on abundant resources for helping patients or the time they wasted arguing with insurance companies may decide to come back to the medical field when that nonsense is gone. Simply paying one person, i.e. a therapist, to help you work through normal everyday problems instead of sending you through endless tests and stuffing you with potentially unnecessary prescriptions is often a more cost-effective approach gained without a profit motive in place. Overall, when the goal of healthcare is to make money, you are kept sick; when the goal of healthcare is to help people become and stay healthier, you are kept healthier.

There are many paths to get to universal healthcare. Right now, Medicare for All (M4A) appears to be the most likely route, but whatever form it takes, I'm game. I don’t suspect anyone will write a universal healthcare bill I would be completely happy with, but healthcare is complex and we're not going to get it right on the first try. It will take time and much adjusting to get it right. With how far behind we are, we need to move fast and break things.

Of course, the general health of Americans is embarrassingly poor for a country this rich. There are economic, educational, and lifestyle changes we can support and incentivize beyond universal healthcare to help us reach a more reasonable standard of general health.

First and foremost are the barriers to becoming and staying a medical professional. The hazard of student loans prevents many prospective Americans from studying medicine in the first place. The combination of those egregious loans and unequal pay incentivizes existing medical professionals to move from rural areas to urban areas, leading to the closure of many rural clinics and hospitals across the country. Innumerable healthcare (and military and police) workers are kept from receiving the help they need after traumatic experiences by threats of pay cuts, demotions, and even job loss. Lack of access to basic services like childcare, transportation, and paid sick leave prevents millions of Americans from being able to get to healthcare appointments when they need to. General economic disparity (including medical bankruptcy) keeps millions of Americans in survival mode, which leads to a massive variety of negative long-term health effects. A lack of comprehensive education for both adults and children about how to take care of our bodies and minds leaves us clueless as to what we can do to stay out of the hospital in the first place. Subsidies for factory farms that support convenient unhealthy diet options instead of subsidies for local farmer co-ops to supply healthy alternatives to food deserts leads to poor nutrition across the country, particularly in low-income and low-density areas. The list goes on, but these are all public health issues we can address with or without universal healthcare.

There’s so much I haven’t even talked about, like demographic disparities in treatment and toxic cultural norms, but I think I’ve highlighted enough to provide confidence that I see the larger scope of the problem and am committed to real and creative solutions that will move us forward quickly.

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