“As we head into an election cycle and as our healthcare costs become increasingly unaffordable, ask your representatives if they support a single-payer system that will cover you and everyone that you love.”
The stories are often shared in passing. As if they’re facts of life that one cannot change. The church secretary that makes $40,000 and spends $25,000 of it on health insurance premiums. The bartender who made too much in tips last month, lost his MNSure coverage, and now hasn’t taken his diabetes, hypertension, or psychiatric meds in weeks. The farm family where one family member must work off the farm to get insurance.
I am only a second-year medical student, but stories of people losing or not being able to afford essential medical care are already a commonplace part of my clinical experience.
In 2015, one third of all Americans put off necessary treatment because of costs. That means that almost everyone reading this knows someone, or they themselves, didn’t get the care they needed because of how much it cost. This summer I spent a rural rotation in International Falls. I was impressed with the quality of care and resilience that this community has shown in its commitment to providing healthcare to the community. I also heard at all levels – from administrators to patients, frustration with the healthcare system, costs, and accessibility of care.
Frustrations with healthcare are not unique to International Falls with an estimated 700,000 Americans going bankrupt every year because of medical debt. Healthcare spending now eats up almost one third of an average family’s income in America. If we were getting the best care in the world, that might be worth it, but the United States ranks 30th in the world for life expectancy, right behind Costa Rica and ahead of Cuba and we rank 26th in infant mortality. Rural communities are especially hard hit with shrinking insurance markets and difficulties retaining providers.
Every American deserves quality care that is affordable and accessible. With a single-payer system that is publicly funded and privately operated, we can get that. A single-payer healthcare system is funded by taxes on employers and individuals based on income. There are no co-pays, premiums, or deductibles. Once you pay into the system, all medically necessary care is free – from primary care, to surgery, dental, and vision care. You can see your hometown doctor that knows you best without having to worry if they are “in network” because every provider is included within the single payer system.
Physicians don’t have to fight insurance companies because single-payer insurance isn’t for-profit and lets patients and their physicians decide what care is medically necessary. And with a publicly accountable system, rural hospitals can incentivize providers to practice in communities like International Falls by increasing the budgets of rural hospitals and clinics to provide more competitive wages.
Non-partisan studies have shown that single-payer insurance would save 95 percent of American families money. Single-payer insurance is good for individuals, it is good for businesses, and it is good for rural communities that are the foundation of our country.
So as we head into an election cycle and as our healthcare costs become increasingly unaffordable, ask your representatives if they support a single-payer system that will cover you and everyone that you love.