Jonathan has a bachelor's degree in English and a strong interest in examining America's healthcare system.
Imagine living in a world where you never have to fill out a health insurance form or pay a premium or a deductible for your doctor’s visit—a world where a diagnosis of cancer or some other unthinkable illness would never immediately be followed by thoughts like, "How will I pay for my treatment?" or "What if I lose my house because of my medical bills?" A world where the names Humana, Aetna, Kaiser, and Cigna carry no meaning. In every major industrialized nation, that world is a reality—every major industrialized nation, that is, except the United States.
We are essentially the only developed country in the world that does not have universal healthcare. Here in the US of A, over 28 million people have no health insurance, and about 45,000 die each year because of it. This means that since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, roughly 360,000 Americans have died because they had no health insurance. Three hundred sixty thousand. That’s like 120 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three hundred sixty thousand people who would have had a chance to live if they were a citizen of Canada, England, Iceland, France, Germany, or almost any other industrialized nation; they died because they were Americans.
Military Spending vs. Healthcare Spending
And yet, while we have such an obscene number of uninsured people and insured people who have inadequate coverage, the United States is the richest country in the world and spends more on defense and the military than any other nation. We apparently can’t find the money to provide healthcare to everyone, but we are always able to find more money for war.
In 2018, Congress passed a bill increasing the military budget by $80 billion, bringing the United States' defense budget for 2018 to a whopping $700 billion. This exceeds the military spending of our next ten biggest rivals combined. Three Republicans voted against the spending bill. But more surprisingly, only five Democratic senators voted against it, including Bernie Sanders.
Who Benefits From Military Spending?
Conservatives often deride the self-professed Democratic Socialist and 2016 and 2020 presidential candidate for pushing unrealistic, “fiscally irresponsible” policies, although this $80 billion military increase is more than enough to pay for his proposal for free tuition at public colleges and universities (the estimated cost of that plan is $75 billion annually). The important difference between the military spending bill and Bernie’s free college plan is that one greatly benefits powerful corporations, and the other does not.
Weapons manufacturers and corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman have a vested interest in the continual increase of our defense spending. Companies like these receive hundreds of billions of our tax dollars a year in the form of contract awards from the Pentagon.
This money goes partly to pay for the services of these companies, and largely to pay their CEOs’ exorbitant salaries. And to protect their vested interest, each year, defense contractors spend incredible amounts of money lobbying Congress to ensure that our senators keep voting with their interests in mind. When the defense sector has at least one lobbyist for every member of Congress, is it too far-fetched to suggest that maybe the increase of our military budget is less about defending the American people and more about making a handful of CEOs and executives very rich?
But wait: Weapons aren’t the only thing the Pentagon spends the budget on. Healthcare companies also get a cut. That’s right: Health insurance companies like Humana and United Health Group receive billions of our tax dollars each year. And these companies, along with pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry in general, spend great sums of money lobbying against universal healthcare.
And yet, while we are able and willing to hand over all this money to corporations and CEOs, we are incapable of taking care of the very soldiers we send to fight in the wars we love so much.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are an estimated 39,471 homeless veterans in our country. In addition, there are 510,000 veterans who don’t have health insurance. It is time we asked ourselves as a society: Is it acceptable that even one veteran should be without a home or healthcare? For that matter, is it acceptable that even one American should be without a home or healthcare?
How Can America Afford Universal Healthcare?
One of the first arguments conservatives always bring against single-payer healthcare is that America simply doesn’t have the money for it. That argument can no longer be taken seriously when viewed in light of the fact that Congress just allocated $80 billion more for unnecessary wars. The money is there; what’s lacking is the political will.
I’m not saying we could pay for healthcare-for-all entirely by reducing the military budget; that would simply be a component. Taxes would have to be raised for everyone (notice I never said free universal healthcare), but that isn’t a bad thing. The wealthy, of course, would pay more, but everyone would contribute. And in the long run, we would pay much less than we do now. All of our health insurance fees, deductibles, and premiums aren’t called taxes, but do we have any more choice in paying them than we do our taxes?
Is Healthcare a Privilege or a Right?
Almost everywhere else in the world, healthcare is a right, and it is scandalous and shameful that the same cannot be said of the U.S. We have decided as a society that everyone has the right to a high school education (although our schools are devastatingly underfunded, our teachers are underpaid, and 35 million American adults cannot read above a fourth-grade level). We all pay taxes so that even the least fortunate of us may have that right.
But in this country, healthcare is a privilege given only to those who have enough money. How does that make any sense? Doesn’t the right to healthcare precede the right to an education? How are you supposed to go to school if you are unwell?
In a single-payer healthcare system, we would all pay a little more in taxes with the knowledge that if we ever become sick or injured, we don’t have to worry at all about paying for treatment. With all the stress, pain, and anxiety that comes along with illness and injury, we would never on top of all that have to think will my insurance cover this? I am happy to have my taxes raised if it means that every American (including myself) may be forever free from that thought.
- Health Insurance Coverage for Veterans
- Does the U.S. Really Need a Huge Boost in Military Spending?
- America's Veterans: Caught in the Middle of the GOP Effort to Repeal ObamaCare
- America Gives $700 billion to the Military, but Says Healthcare Is a Luxury
- Here's Where Your Tax Dollars for "Defense" Are Really Going
- The Number of American's Without Health Insurance Increased by 3 Million Under Trump
- National Center for Health Statistics: Health Insurance Coverage Report
- NPR Report on Adult Illiteracy
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Jason B Truth from United States of America on June 30, 2020:
Jonathan? I have to say that you hit this topic right on the button. The private health insurance industry has been failing drastically in recent years. Now that we Americans are confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, it could never be any more obvious on how much better off our nation would be if we had universal healthcare instead of this dysfunctional system we have now. Regretfully so, it may just take the death of so many rich people in the private health insurance industry from the coronavirus for our nation to wake up and smell the coffee as a whole.
New Zealand got their coronavirus problem under control last month, and they have universal healthcare there. However, the United States of America is about to set a world record on how many deaths we have in relation to this pandemic all because of stupidity among the American people and a substandard health insurance system.
At the same time, I don't think that Obamacare is going to save our nation. President Barack Obama made the mistake of appointing a dunce like Kathleen Sebelius as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after she had a whole string of failures as the governor of Kansas, and Ms. Sebelius caused irreparable harm to that same system. If our nation is to establish a universal healthcare system like other industrialized nations, it all has to be planned and devised carefully.
Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress need to work with President Donald J. Trump to make it all happen. Joe Biden needs to drop out of the presidential election and give the Democratic nomination over to someone intelligent like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren so that if President Trump falls short of the votes he needs to get reelected, we will at least have someone in the Oval Office who will know what they're doing when they finally attempt to make this universal healthcare initiative happen. Unfortunately, Joe Biden does not have the psychological wherewithal anymore to reform our healthcare system in this manner, and he is not in the best of mental health at this point in his life as much as it pains me to say so. His mind is trapped back in the Obama administration in terms of his desire to revive a failed policy like Obamacare.
A B Williams from Central Florida on April 27, 2018:
I don't know how "genius" my points are Paula, I came into this discussion purely on an emotional level. I don't know why a hateful, uncaring Conservative cries for a baby in England, but I do!
Now Brad on the other hand...I like how his mind works. :)
I, also understand where you are coming from, with your earlier comment.
Suzie from Carson City on April 27, 2018:
Angie and Brad. Put simply, you both make genius points. Thank you.
Brad on April 27, 2018:
You have focused only on the military.
And we shouldn't confuse healthcare with quality care. Nor should we confuse health insurance with health care.
Since the mid 1950s when Dr. Jonas Salk cured Polio, we cannot find any cures for our major diseases.
Instead we have made advances in surgeries, far from being a cure, it is effective by cutting things out, or repairing some body part.
The second treatment is from the drug industry, and they are corporations that strive for profits. And a cure is a one time profit, but their current paradigm is long time treatment, and in many cases the treatment is only on the results of the underlying disease, like water retention related to a heart problem.
When we keep allowing illegal aliens to come into the country they create a serious drain on our healthcare system, as they do on our education and welfare system.
They also increase the cost of health insurance because the illegals get their medical treatment gratis, and the people that pay for health insurance end up paying higher premiums for them.
In addition, over $20 billion in illegal drugs come into the US across an open border. This impacts law enforcement, public safety, public health, and impacts our healthcare system.
A B Williams from Central Florida on April 26, 2018:
Little Alfie is still hanging on, his medical team said that he wouldn't live once off life support, but yet he lives...days later.
Why? Is it possible he was misdiagnosed? The power of Prayer?
I never said anything about Italy other than they want to help, they don't want to give up on him.
As far as America goes, at this point, if this family were to come here, this generous Nation would take care of their medical expenses, travel expenses and then some. That's what Americans do.
Why can't it be between Alfie's Parents and Italy or Alfie's Parents and Timbuktu....whatever, wherever...short of giving up on him. I hate that they have no say and are at the mercy of England.
This is so crazy to me and yes...so very foreign to me.
When Obama dictated we purchase insurance or pay a fine, I canceled my policy, I was ready to pay a fine or go to jail, anything but have a man that is supposed to be in my employ, making demands of me.
Barack Obama is why we have the U.S. Constitution.
We are small business Owner/Operators and we currently choose to pay all of our medical expenses out-of-pocket.
We may purchase another insurance policy again some day, but it will be when and if we decide to...not because someone is forcing us to.
My daughter is an RN, at a very large Medical Center, they never turn away anyone. Some of the homeless stay there indefinitely, will eventually have to leave, then they are right back again.
Shriner's Hospitals for Children, provide care and services, whether families can afford it or not.
Jonathan Saloio (author) from Massachusetts on April 26, 2018:
A B WIlliams, thank you for the comments and the support! I was hoping to spark a lively discussion with this article. The case of Alfie Evans is very heartbreaking, and I can see why it would make people fear universal healthcare. I agree that Alfie's parents should be allowed to take their son elsewhere for care. Parents should have the right to do that. But the neighboring country that you mentioned that is offering him care, Italy, has universal healthcare. That is why they are able to offer him free care. If this couple were in the U.S., they may not have been able to pay for his care in the first place, or they would end up thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt and their son would die anyway.
From what I have read, it is unlikely that hospitals in any other country, including the U.S., would be able to save Alfie. He has an incurable degenerative neurological disorder, and before he was taken off life support, his brain had severely deteriorated. The decision to take him off life support was not made lightly. It is a sad fact that sometimes it is cruel and painful to keep a person alive artificially, and sometimes infants have horrible, incurable diseases with no hope of survival. I am NOT saying his parents should have no say in this. I think it is wrong to not let them take their child somewhere else for treatment (although it is arguable that moving him to another country would cause him tremendous pain and suffering with no benefit). I am simply saying that no matter where he goes for treatment, he will most likely die.
Here I am putting a link to an article where medical experts give their thoughts about Alfie's case: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-...
However, my main point here is not about the specific ethics of this case. It is that there is not only one way of enacting universal healthcare. Every country does it differently. Iceland has a different system from Britain, Britain has a different system from Australia, and Germany and Canada have systems of their own as well. I am not necessarily saying we should be like England. In fact, I like to think that we can have a single-payer system that is better than England's, one in which parents have more rights and more say over their child's care. Why does it have to be one way or the other? Just because we move to a universal system, doesn't mean it has to be exactly like Britain's.
As for being a "freedom-loving" society, I look at it like this. How much freedom do people really have if they are saddled with debt from medical bills, or if they are ill but can't seek treatment because they have no insurance and can't afford it? The American system is wonderful for people who have the money for good insurance and good medical care, but what about the millions who don't?
A B Williams from Central Florida on April 26, 2018:
P.S. Good luck, I do wish you the best here at HP. You will surely be a big hit!
A B Williams from Central Florida on April 26, 2018:
Last night right before turning in for the night, I read up on the plight of Alfie and his Parents over in England.
I began to cry for these people that I do know from Adam.
So imagine this picture; tears are running down my face, I had just turned to my husband and said, "they are just going to let that baby die" and then...your article appears.
I was not searching, I do not follow you. I am not familiar with you and yet here is this article out of left field, making the case for us to be more like England! I had to comment.
We took time away from our business that was barely staying afloat, during the Obama Admin., to March on tha Capital, when this Nation started moving us toward Socialized medicine. When our Government placed mandates on us and even threatened us with jail time, if we did not comply!
We cannot have it both ways, we cannot call ourselves a self-reliant, freedom-loving, capitalist society, all while handing our Rights over to our Government, so that they might 'take care of us' until they can't or refuse to?
No thanks, I'll fight to my grave for decisions involving my family to remain with my family.
Suzie from Carson City on April 25, 2018:
Jonathan, I see you are a relatively new member here at HP. I'd like to welcome you and wish you much success & overall great experience.
I must say if you continue to write outstanding articles such as this one, you're headed for fans who love your work and will support you on your journey to fame.
This hub has special meaning for me in a timely manner....In November I had open heart surgery. Per typical Health Insurance routine, a lot was paid for (and should be ENOUGH to cover the Dr. & Hospital costs, were it not for GREED.) So, there's that plenty extra I must cover. This is insanity, considering the chunk of money taken from my "self-paid for Social Security" and a private HMO as well. I try not to even think about this and get myself aggravated.
LOVE this article, Jonathan and intend to share it with everyone I know. Peace, Paula
A B Williams from Central Florida on April 25, 2018:
Imagine you are the Parents of Alfie Evans tonight, living in a Country where socialized medicine has been embraced.
Imagine having no say, when your Country decides that your child's time is up and no matter how hard you fight...no matter that a neighboring Country is ready and willing to take you in and treat your child, you haven't a say.
Your Rights, as his Parents, were forfeited, because your Country embraced socialized medicine.
No, I can't imagine!