Everyone agrees that the most important thing in life — the thing without which nothing else matters much — is health.
There have been innumerable studies comparing the health of U.S. citizens to the health of people in other countries. In a list of the 25 healthiest countries, the Scandinavian countries are almost always near the top. In a 2016 Bloomberg study, Iceland was rated as the healthiest country in the world; Sweden was second. The United States was rated 28th.
In 2015, the per capita cost of healthcare in the U.S. was about $9,500. The cost of healthcare in Iceland was about $4,000; Swedes paid about $5,200 per capita; Japan, which was the 6th healthiest country in the world, only spent about $3,700.
As a % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Iceland spends about 9% on healthcare, Sweden about 11% and Japan about 10%. The U.S. spends more than 17%.
Sweden, Iceland and Japan, who have the healthiest populations and spend the least on providing healthcare, are all Single Payer systems. The case is clear: The United States should be moving toward a Single-Payer system.
Single-Payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands.
In addition to reducing costs and probably improving health outcomes, a Single-Payer system would allow individuals to change jobs without fear of losing health insurance and would encourage people to pursue entrepreneurial business opportunities with no fear of losing insurance coverage. The energy and capital that would be put back into the economy is staggering.
In addition, we could be assured that no one would ever go bankrupt because of health issues or be refused care because of inability to pay, that everyone would have access to preventive health care and there would be a universal system for treating mental illness and addiction.
But there is even one more consideration. Universal healthcare is also a security issue. According to epidemiologists, a pandemic of a deadly infection similar to HIV, Ebola or Zika will occur in the not too distant future. Universal healthcare coverage would help to save thousands or maybe millions of lives.
The time has come to drag the U.S Healthcare system into the 21st century.