After weeks of anticipation, Senator Bernie Sanders just released his proposal for a single-payer health care system this Wednesday. Titled “Medicare for All”, the bill proposes just that- expanding health care insurance to all Americans. It already has the support of 17 other Democratic Senators. However, it is certain to soon have another major backer, one that is far more persuasive and influential to the average American- the media.
When the media picks up on single-payer health care, the narrative will undoubtedly support it. The cherry-picked anecdote of the single mother or homeless man who couldn’t afford insurance is just too compelling to pass up. After all, despite being referred to as “news”, the media’s purpose is ultimately to get clicks and generate ad revenue. And those who do not support the new system will be demonized and told that they hate the poor.
So what is Single-Payer Health Care?
In essence, the term “single-payer health care” identifies that only one group bears the responsibility of paying for health care. In this case, that would be the federal government.
A single-payer system in the United States would cover everybody with a government program that funded doctors and hospitals. If successful, Sanders’ legislation would be the largest social welfare initiative to date.
Popularity and Public Appeal
Regardless of the probable efforts of progressives and the media, Sanders’ Medicare for All bill is never going to pass. Unfortunately for those in favor of a single-payer health care plan, the support just isn’t there. This European-style health care model is still considered as radical by both the Republicans and the more moderate Democrats. Even as of right now, the moderates are keeping their distance, leaving only the most progressive Democrats supporting the bill.
Among the public, however, the idea of single-payer healthcare is gaining traction. In fact, most Americans actually say they are in favor of it– until they are told that it is government-run. (But groups exposed to arguments supporting single-payer showed “malleable” opinions as well; maybe we need to do a better job of educating people on the trade-offs of such proposals.) Either way, it is understandable why Americans dislike the connotation of “government-controlled” services. Washington D.C. just hasn’t done a good job with what it already has. For example, Medicare is $50 trillion in debt, and there are all sorts of coverage issues with Medicaid and Obama/TrumpCare. In short, the government doesn’t have a particularly good track record with public health care.
Additionally, Sanders’ proposal lacks a crucial component- it doesn’t actually explain how the system is to be paid for. In the past, during his presidential campaign, Sanders estimated the cost to be around $13.8 trillion over 10 years. However, other experts have projected significantly higher costs, ranging from $2.5 to $2.8 trillion dollars annually. For a country already over $20 trillion in debt, a national program costing trillions annually is difficult to justify.
While single-payer health care may not be a realistic policy of the near future, prepare yourselves- the heated debates are just around the corner.