Exploring Medicare for All: Understanding the Healthcare Debate

Illustrated by Clair Huang

Before we buy any product at the market, we first consider the quality and price and compare it to similar products to ensure we are making the correct choice. Surprisingly this exact shopping behavior also appears in the topic of healthcare. Since the 2020 presidential election cycle, voters in the United States have been listening to the Demoratic candidates proposing multiple plans and ideas including “Medicare for all” and the inclusion of a public option (1). Voters are exploring which healthcare plan will fulfill their needs for both themselves and their families. The Democratic presidential primaries have opened the conversation, but there still exist many questions over the specific details. 

In order to explore the healthcare debate, we must first understand the concept of “Medicare for all”. The concept essentially aims to increase healthcare coverage to Americans on a national level. While increasing coverage is the end goal for many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, the concept divides them over whether to implement a single-payer system or a public option. A single-payer system would allow only one insurer to pay for all the healthcare services used by buyers. Under that system, only the government would manage the healthcare system, resulting in the loss of private health insurance. A public option, however, would allow middle-income and working-age individuals to select a public insurance plan such as Medicaid while still keeping private health insurance available. Under a public option, buyers could pay premiums or use government subsidies to obtain either a private or public insurance plan (1). By allowing both private and public health insurance to coexist, buyers can benefit by having multiple choices to select a plan. This could potentially increase competition among private insurance and lower prices overall (2). However, including the public option would prevent having simplicity, which is what the single-payer system provides. While these differences reflect the healthy debate in an attempt to find the best healthcare, voters have been unable to receive enough information from each presidential candidate to learn more about their plans and their differences. The questions over specific details and the division between the single-payer system and public option are exemplified through the proposals of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden. 

Warren appears to show support for implementing a single-payer system for healthcare. During the 2020 presidential cycle, she has been one of the co-sponsors to a Medicare for All bill that includes a single-payer system created originally by Senator Bernie Sanders. The bill would allow the government to publicly provide healthcare services without the use of private health insurance (2). Warren also writes in a survey created by the New York Times that “there’s no excuse for stopping at half-measures” over improving the healthcare system. In contrast, Biden appears to show support for incorporating a public option into the current healthcare system. He once said at a candidate forum that he supported including a plan that would be free for low-income individuals in states where Medicaid has not expanded under the Affordable Care Act (2). By showing support for the public option, Biden appears to support the coexistence of private and public health insurance. However, neither Biden nor Warren has elaborated further to voters on the specific details in enforcing either a public option or a single-payer system. The primary debates have been an attempt to provide more information on their proposals, but the outlines of their plans remain unclear at this time. Voters are also interested in how the candidates will pay for their healthcare plans. While the candidates have attempted to explain the costs through the debates, Warren appears to have distanced herself away from the financing question while Biden has remained unclear about spending (2). As a result, voters do not have enough information at this time to confidently support a candidate’s proposal that would challenge the current healthcare system featuring private healthcare insurance. 

Ideally we want a healthcare system that provides everyone with coverage and an affordable insurance plan. While the presidential primary debates have attempted to produce the best model to voters, they alone can not inform us with all the facts necessary to select a healthcare plan. As a result, it is our responsibility as individuals to conduct our own research and cautiously analyze the specific details surrounding each candidate’s proposal. Only then can we comprehend each plan before deciding whether to implement it on a large scale.

Edited by: Sindy Ivaturi

Illustrated by: Clair Huang

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