The phrases “health care for all” or “universal health care” might be two of the trendiest phrases in the health care space, the political space, and the Friday-night-cocktail-party space. Lord knows, you can’t go to a football tailgate or a friend’s wine tasting without this topic coming up.
But what do these phrases really mean in the hearts and minds of the American public? And what do these phrases mean for the economy and the health care space in general? Let’s dig in.
Wisdom of Interwebs
In the interest of a completely scientific investigation, so that I might better understand what the American consumer is reading when he/she does some research, I chose to use the most reliable resource at my disposal: Google.
When doing a Google search of “health care for all,” the first two results happened to be from insurance carriers, advertising a group product; naturally these were promoted ads. From there, it got interesting. The third result was for Bernie Sanders “Health Care for All” website,
My Spidey-sense tingled. Upon clicking the link for the website, I was greeted by the following quote, credited to Bernie Sanders: “We say to the private health insurance companies: whether you like it or not, the Untied States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee health care to all people as a right. All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they’re sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital.”
What does this even mean? To the casual reader, the internet-browsing American, this quote might say, “Health insurance is bad and it stands in the way of your right to go to the doctor!”
Or maybe it says, “health care in America is super expensive and inaccessible and we’re not going to stand for it anymore! Oh, yeah, and health insurance companies are jerks!”
Most troubling in this quote is the failure to explicitly mention anything about excessive billing and/or the lack of transparent pricing in medicine.
Further, it fails to recognize the value of current solutions and cost-containment methods in play for many employer-sponsored health plans all across the country. One might think these would be useful nuggets for the American consumer to ponder.
I remember taking a course on Communism in college. Naturally, as a 19-year-old student studying history and political science at a small, liberal arts college, I was enthralled by the ideas espoused in the various texts we read during the course. It seemed wonderful that there was a political system “out there” that might allow all people to earn a living, have a home, go to college and want for nothing… sort of.
But, as days went by and I experienced more of life, the realities of what sounds nice on paper versus what actually works in practical application became readily apparent to me.
Now, to be clear, I have no interest in discussing whether “Health care for all” is a communist idea and/or whether Donald Trump should lay off of Twitter.
I truly cannot stand politics, and my undergrad days of being interested in political theory are absolutely dead and gone. However, I am interested in discussing the practical application of universal health care in the United States of America and what that might look like. Please consider the following very, very brief thoughts:
My first concern: the death of innovation. I often wonder whether universal health care would stymie medical innovation. It goes without saying that a universal health care system would come at the cost of a financially robust health care platform.
I’m not agreeing, nor am I disagreeing, with the fact that there is a wealth of money to be made in American medicine; I’m simply pointing out a fact. There are billions and billions of dollars to be had in health care.
As much as we decry the predatory billing practices of Big Pharma, is there something to be said for the idea that a very smart little kid, somewhere in South Dakota, might see the opportunity to make a very good living as an adult, trying to cure some horrid disease? Does her motivation to pursue that career go away if she no longer sees financial gain to be had?
Perhaps. Perhaps not.