Where We Stand Wednesday: Healthcare Is A Human Right

The healthcare system in our country is fundamentally broken. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies price-gouge families and individuals for life-saving treatment and medicine, while simultaneously raking in billions of dollars in profits. We must ensure that every person in this country has the healthcare coverage they need, and we must end the greed and profiteering of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

There is no question that healthcare in our country isn’t working for people. All across the United States, hard-working families pay thousands upon thousands of dollars per year to private health insurance companies, and yet 27.5 million people in this country go without insurance and many more have to settle for junk plans that don’t constitute complete coverage. 

This problem is especially prevalent in Utah. In an article published by the Salt Lake Tribune in October 2019, we learned that about 72,000 children in Utah (7.4%) were uninsured in 2018, well above the national average (5.2%). Those numbers are even higher in the 1st District, with approximately 23,752 children (about 8.7%) without insurance coverage. Additionally, the number of children without insurance has grown 22% in two years, giving Utah the second-highest increase in that category in the nation. 

When it comes to adults, the problem is just as bad. In the 1st District, 13.1% of adults are not covered by health insurance. That’s almost 80,000 people who live every day without the relative security of insurance. All in all, over 100,000 individuals (11.4%) in our district do not have health insurance. That number should be 0.

It’s clear why Utah is facing this problem: studies have found that children who live in states where Medicaid has not been expanded are twice as likely to be uninsured than children in states that have opted into Medicaid expansion. In 2018, Utah voters approved ballot Proposition 3, expanding Medicaid availability to families making up to 138% of the federal poverty line. But rather than carrying out the will of the people, as they were elected to do, Republicans in the legislature gutted Prop 3 and hoped that the Trump administration would save the day with federal funding for a full expansion. To the surprise of no one, Trump’s administration denied the request, and tens of thousands of Utah children have paid the price. 

Even for Utahns with health insurance, their coverage is hardly affordable. In the 1st District, the average annual healthcare cost in 2017 was $8,183.90, about 8% of the median income. 

Conversely, over the first three quarters of 2018, the largest eight private insurance companies in the United States raked in about $21 billion in profits. Twenty-one BILLION dollars. At a time when millions of families across the country can’t afford their medical bills, even with insurance, these giant companies are making more money than we can even fathom. That’s $21 billion made off the backs of struggling Americans. 

We are better than this. Our country is better than this. We can and must stand up against a morally corrupt system where families are forced into bankruptcy in order to treat life-threatening conditions. 

In the end, this comes down to our values. We should have a system reflecting our belief that healthcare is a human right. I also believe that we should transition away from a system where healthcare is attached directly to employment. Currently, there are many different proposals for healthcare being discussed by 2020 candidates for President, and most of these plans would go a long way in expanding coverage for everyone. Here are just a couple of plans which I support studying the merits of: 

Public Option

Under a public option system, any person would have the ability to opt-in to Medicare. This would allow those unable to pay for private insurance to get covered at affordable rates and would close the coverage gap of those who earn too much to automatically qualify for Medicare/Medicaid, but who cannot afford a private health insurance plan. 

Single-Payer (Medicare for All)

One of the proposals currently being discussed on a national level is instituting a single-payer Medicare for All system in the United States. Under this type of system, every person in the United States would have a comprehensive healthcare plan under Medicare, and private insurance would no longer be necessary except for supplemental coverage (cosmetic surgeries, etc.). Studies have shown that instituting such a system would save our country trillions of dollars in healthcare spending over the next decade, and would provide full coverage to every single person in this country. There are multiple options for funding, including an income tax (offset by the elimination of premiums, copays, and deductibles), increased wealth taxes on the super-rich, a small tax on the sale of stocks, and many more. 

Overall, I support any system which would increase healthcare coverage for all Americans and Utahns, and I look forward to talking to people all over Utah’s 1st District about their stories and their opinions on this issue. The only way I can represent Utah values is by talking to Utah voters! I want to make sure I am taking your opinions with me to Washington, where I can help shape the future of healthcare in this country.

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