October 24, 2017


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Can the U.S. Government Afford a Single-Payer Health System?

Healthcare is a very popular, but sensitive subject in today’s world. With much of the world focusing on single-payer health systems, the U.S. has been slowly wondering if we should follow suit. And while the single-payer health system sounds ideal, you may be wondering what it means for the country’s finances. We’ll take an in-depth look at this kind of healthcare system and if it can be afforded.

How much would a Single-Payer Health System Cost?

Single-payer health systems allow every citizen to receive the same healthcare, regardless of income. The U.S. government already has a form of the single-payer health system; Medicare and Medicaid. These types of insurance are available to the poor and elderly citizens and virtually cover all medical expenses. It’s estimated that the government spends around $600 billion per year for those on Medicare and more than $300 billion for those on Medicaid.

There are many different organizations that have estimated the cost of this type of health program if it was enacted for every citizen; especially since the percentage of citizens approving of the idea has increased dramatically. The Urban Institute estimated that a single-payer health system would cost an additional $32 trillion over the next decade, in addition to what the country already pays for Medicare and Medicaid. Most other organizations estimated roughly the same; with cost numbers ranging from $2.4-$2.8 trillion per year.

Can the U.S. Afford it?

As you know, there are many other countries around the world that use this type of system. But how do they do it? They use a wide variety of methods. Some countries have developed a sliding scale system based on citizens’ incomes, use private/public funding, receive employee/employer contributions, and offer “private insurance.” These countries essentially find ways to earn some of the money back that they have provided up front.

Many in the business believe the U.S. government can afford it, but only if it is done right. By taking power away from private insurances and pharmaceutical companies, the tax breaks they formerly had could contribute to the funds. The government could also add a small tax to yearly income taxes, like they do in Canada.

If the government moves to a single-payer health system, they would have to de-privatize insurance companies, taking control over prices. Government-based healthcare services in other countries tend to cost astronomically less than private healthcare. Other countries keep advertising, etc. to a minimum to save on health costs; that is possible in the U.S. as well.

If you look at the numbers, there simply isn’t enough spare money in the budget to be able to afford to put every citizen on a Medicare/Medicaid program. However, if a deeper look is taken into other programs and tax breaks, affordability is possible. It is also possible to enact a policy like Germany has, requiring citizens to pay a flat percentage of their income each year to receive the single-payer insurance.

The numbers involved with a single-payer health system can seem scary. With so much of the U.S. government’s money already being allocated elsewhere, it is hard to see how it is possible. But it is possible; the U.S. government could afford to pay for a single-payer health system, with the right systems in place. If we can do it properly, the U.S. could join the rest of the world and become a part of the single-payer system.

Related resource:

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