by Izman Suhail & Shiv Palit
Among a number of policy reforms proposed by Donald Trump, one of the most worrying is the proposal to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a free market healthcare system. With his proposed health care system, there will be no restrictions on health insurance companies, allowing them to provide to whoever they want at whatever price the market sets.
Although the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare was unsuccessful, it was still a step towards a single-payer healthcare system, in which a single public or quasi-public agency would organize healthcare financing. While we acknowledge the detriment caused by Obamacare – higher premiums, higher deductibles etc. – we still believe that a publicly financed single-payer healthcare system would be more effective. It would provide equal care to all Americans, regardless of their income bracket, age, employment or diagnosis.
With the single-tiered system, every American would be covered by the insurance plan in their state, which would pay doctors and hospitals directly. This would ensure universal high quality healthcare, as the quality of care must meet the standards of all citizens. Under the multi-tiered system, people receive different qualities of healthcare based on their financial status. Those who can pay more, will be treated better, and those who cannot, will receive a lower quality of healthcare. Such a system not only reduces the standards of living for the lower income brackets, but also increases inequality amongst the various economic groups.
Providing universal healthcare will be a step towards ensuring equal physical and mental capabilities for all citizens. Subsequently, this would also improve the financial opportunities for the poor, and stimulate overall economic growth.
The Trump administration fails to realize that a multi-tiered healthcare system not only leads to varying qualities of healthcare, but also prohibits the economic productivity of the whole economy. A key factor in the economic proficiency of a nation is to allow everyone an equal opportunity when entering the workforce, regardless of their race, gender, age and financial status.
It is not enough for citizens to be able to afford some sort of healthcare; everyone must have access to the same level of it. Without access to the same quality of healthcare provided to the wealthier citizens, the poor are inevitably prevented from enjoying the same level of physical and mental health that allow other citizens to succeed in the workforce.
If everyone is ensured the same level of physical and mental health, they will be able to apply their abilities equally. Therefore, with a standard quality of healthcare, all Americans, regardless of their life’s circumstances, will be able to compete in the workforce equally. Furthermore, they can proceed based on their individual talents rather than limiting their opportunities due to unaffordable health issues.
Some might argue that education in the United States is a private-funded venture, leading to inequalities that prohibit equal opportunities when entering the labor force. While providing good quality public education to all citizens is desirable, we acknowledge that simultaneously financing both healthcare and education may be unfeasible. However, with the burden of healthcare lifted from the less fortunate, people will be able to allocate more time and financial resources to their education, emphasizing the importance of equal access to good healthcare.
There is little issue with inequalities that rise as a result of differing talents or preferences. If someone is better at performing their requirements than another, then the better performer deserves to be rewarded for it. By allowing the more talented to excel, the overall efficiency of the economy will increase, which will indirectly benefit those that are less talented. Inequalities that arise as a result of differing access to healthcare, however, pose a different threat.
The vitality of a country can be determined by observing its economy. For an economy to thrive it needs, at the very least, a willing and able labor force. In order for a labor force to function efficiently, some fundamental requirements must be met. This includes access to good healthcare and education, among several other things.
The consequences of denying education may be a labor force that is unable to perform at its highest potential, which is a problem that should be addressed in the long run. However, the consequences of denying equal access to good healthcare include a significant reduction in the labor force. If people cannot afford the healthcare they need then they will be physically and or mentally unable to perform their jobs. In order to maximize economic efficiency, and allow the country to prosper, equal access to good healthcare must be provided.
Obamacare was unsuccessful – we get it – but this does not mean we should abandon the idea of a single-payer system altogether. It is necessary to investigate its framework in order to improve it and continue working for equal healthcare. We took a small step forward when attempting Obamacare, but the answer is not to take three steps backwards. Instead, the Trump administration should focus on the problems created by Obamacare in order to improve its goal. Such a policy would make the labor market more competitive as it grows in size and efficiency, which adheres to Trump’s position on providing jobs, promoting free market capitalism, and making America great again.