Okay, But What Actually Is Medicare For All?

By Irene Merrow | September 13, 2019
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Much like the concept of gluten, Medicare for All is something we throw around a lot, but when asked to define it, we find ourselves unable to give a concise answer. Gluten is that thing that is illegal to eat and Medicare For All is that thing that Bernie Sanders loves? Turns out there is more to both of these things, and the latter is actually really f*cking important.

With third Democratic debate behind us, it’s clear health care will be a hot button issue throughout the 2020 campaign. But the only time you really hear candidates explain the concept is when they’re tearing apart the particulars of their opponents’ plans. Rarely does anyone actually define it in simple terms. 

I myself often find my response to defining the term as, “Medicare for All is, you know…Medicare…for…all.” So, I have taken it upon myself to read a lot of articles, do a lot of Google searches, and call my dad multiple times in order to get to the bottom of this. And now I will share with you what I have found. Yeah, you’re welcome.

What is Medicare?

Let’s start here. Medicare is a federal, government run program that provides health insurance to people who are a) 65 or older b) people who are living with a disability or c) people with end-stage renal disease. In America, many people are insured through the benefits at their job. This means that when people retire, they lose their health insurance, and that is where Medicare comes in. Which makes sense, right? Elders who have retired deserve to be insured so they can remain healthy and alive. So, already Medicare is a program that practices the idea that health care is a human right. And tbh Medicare is v popular. Most people who have it seem to love it. I mean, free health insurance…what’s not to love? So, why is it limited to only certain demographics?

What Is Medicare For All?

Medicare For All asks the above question and answers it by saying Medicare should be for everyone. As I said before, about half of Americans obtain health insurance through their jobs, but that still leaves out a lot of people. Like, for example, me, who works freelance and doesn’t receive benefits. Plus, even people who do get health insurance through their jobs end up paying a lot for it and have to shell out money for high copays and deductibles.

Private health insurance forces both people who are and aren’t covered pay massive amounts of money for medical bills. Private health insurance makes health care a privilege that people can buy, making a healthy life a commodity, not a right. Medicare aims to change that by providing everyone with free health insurance. With this, private health insurance would no longer be a thing. Everyone would be insured by the government, for free (and in exchange for higher taxes). In short, everyone would have the same free health insurance that people over 65 have: Medicare. It’s literally…Medicare For All.

Why Medicare?

This idea came about from the desire to provide Americans with single-payer health care. Okay, what is that? It’s another fancy term thrown around in politics that secretly has a simple definition. Single-payer health care is a type of universal health care financed by taxes that covers the costs of health care for all residents, with costs covered by a single public system. Blah blah blah taxes help the government pay for our health care so we don’t die or go into massive debt blah blah blah. America is the only highly developed countries that doesn’t have universal health care. Tbh it’s kind of embarrassing. But we do have Medicare, which is the closest program we have to a free health care market. So, it makes sense for us to take a program that we already have and is popular, and use that when transitioning to a free market for everyone. Why start from scratch when you already have the framework set up?

 

Okay, Why Is Everyone Not For This?

So there’s an option for free health insurance and not everyone is jumping at it? Yes. Because Medicare For All would mean letting go of what we are already familiar and comfortable with. People would lose their health insurance and have to switch to this new one, which hasn’t been tested at this level. Private insurance companies of course hate this idea, because they would lose a lot of money. And we as Americans would lose the option to choose what health insurance program we want. Instead, we would be given our one option: Medicare. And here’s the thing: Americans love options and hate change.

Medicare For All would eliminate the former and deliver the latter. But, I listened to a podcast (humblebrag) called Reply Guys — which you all should listen to — where the guest, Natalie Shure, talked about how most Americans are not happy with their current health insurance. Most Americans would benefit from a change. Especially those less fortunate who can’t afford most health insurance. Medicare For All could be a win for the average American, but it would also mean big change.

We’ll update you on how Medicare for All continues to shape the presidential race in our daily newsletter. Subscribe here, and catch our full breakdown of the third presidential debate on the Betches Sup podcast