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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/4/16

Is Bernie Wrong about Universal Healthcare?

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Recently, Forbes published an article about Bernie Sanders' single-payer, "universal healthcare" plan. The plan would increase federal spending by "at least" 28 trillion, or 55 percent. One school of thought goes, people are likely to abuse such a plan.

Those of us who are healthy most of the time and already don't rely very much on Obamacare currently pay for our insurance in cooperation with our employer. Or, we pay in cooperation with the state in which we live. With Bernie's plan, we'd be paying for others to go to the doctor. We'd be paying for hypochondriacs regardless of whether or not they need medical care.

Hillary says Bernie's plan would effectively abolish Obamacare and "set us back." Hillary merely wants to build onto Obamacare.

In terms of Obamacare requirements for businesses, the rules are now stricter. Before 2016, a business with over 100 employees had to offer coverage. Now, any business with over 50 employees must offer coverage to at least 95% of employees, or face penalties.

According to this Obamacare calculator, it's to a business' advantage to offer good coverage. A business with 75 employees saves 40 thousand dollars by offering coverage. And, 58% of employees who are thinking about leaving a job would be motivated to stay by a quality benefits package.

Obamacare essentially requires business to move towards offering quality benefits to employees, which lowers attrition and improves the economy. During Obama's tenure, the unemployment rate dropped 2.5% and the economy added nearly 7.9 million jobs.

Why would we want to drop this progress in favor of Bernie's single payer plan? Shouldn't we, like Hillary, seek to build upon what's working?

Number one, because the hypothetical hypochondriac I mentioned earlier needs mental healthcare. Under Obamacare, the mental healthcare system in America is intrinsically flawed. Insurance providers can waffle on who meets Medicaid requirements. States can waffle on how much money they want to allot for Medicaid.

I know this because in my state and in others, in order to get unclaimed Medicaid money, the state insurance provider under Obamacare regularly manipulates the system by denying applicants. This money lines the pockets of the provider's CEOs. The provider, United Healthcare, is currently facing a class-action lawsuit for denying patients community-based and residential mental healthcare.

Meanwhile, my state--Idaho, a red state--continues to turn down Medicaid dollars we could claim under Obamacare. We would have more help for the mentally ill, but our lawmakers insist it would hurt us by raising taxes. In 2014, we had the 6th highest suicide rate in the nation. Wouldn't it makes sense to pay a little more towards services for the mentally ill when 30-70% of suicide cases suffer from major depression or bipolar disorder?

This applies nationwide. There is absolutely no sense in limiting mental health services for the mentally ill.

Under Bernie's plan, no one who needs them would be denied mental health services.

Number two, the single-payer plan would make any concern from businesses about complying with Obamacare obsolete. The people who can afford it will pay into the system. Then, they will get equal rights out of that system. No more worrying about offering an appropriate insurance package to employees. One will simply worry about one's own health.

In terms of benefits packages, since when is healthcare supposed to be a "benefit"? Companies make billions off of employees who work under toxic conditions. Why is healthcare a benefit in a system where working conditions, such as sitting too long, degrade our health? Healthcare is a safety net, it's not proactive. Companies should compete to offer benefits that improve health, including treadmill desks and gym memberships.

Healthcare is our right in a capitalistic system where the conditions under which we work contribute to health problems. Saying insurance companies should capitalize off of healthcare is like saying we should pay extra for seatbelts. Seatbelts are included in the sticker price because it makes sense to have them, given the nature of cars. The same applies to healthcare in an industrialized system.

Bernie's not wrong about universal healthcare if we say he's right. That's the great thing about democracy.
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