Will Medicare Ever Be Universal?

By on March 30, 2017

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The topics of health insurance, health care, and health programs have been at the center of debate in the United States over the past decade. This debate is especially hot right now considering recent changes in the executive and legislative branches of government. Critics of both the former and current administrations have been at each other’s throats while lawmakers and politicians have been supposedly busy trying to find the best way to create a health care program that is affordable, effective, and liberating. Whether or not all of these things can be achieved (or whether or not those in charge truly have Americans’ best interests at heart) is yet to be determined, but it’s no secret that health policy is a tough nut to crack.

After all, the U.S. is filled with over 320 million people now, with the average life expectancy being close to 80 years old. With so many people around, and so many of them living for a longer time, more and more health coverage is needed. Better medicine is indeed the reason why so many are living longer lives now. The problem is that, like anything, medicine is not free, nor is it cheap. It costs a lot of money to research, develop, and produce medicine, as well as pay for doctors, nurses, facilities, equipment, and other things related to health care. The U.S. is one of the biggest forces when it comes to research and development of medicine as well, meaning it carries a larger cost burden than other countries. So no matter which side of the debate one is on regarding whether or not medical expenses should be funded more publicly or privately, the fact is the cost is going to fall on the individual one way or another. It’s just a matter of how large that cost is at the time of a medical emergency, and how good the treatment is.

One of the biggest aspects of this debate involves the state of Medicare, a program created by the U.S. federal government in 1966 under the Johnson administration. The main idea of Medicare is to provide medical security for those 65 and older as well as Americans with disabilities. Most participants pay for Medicare via their payroll taxes. The program involves several private insurance companies to provide more choice for consumers and competition among health insurance providers. Today over 44 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare. It isn’t the only health insurance option in the U.S., but it has proven to be an effective fallback for those who are retired or disabled.

While Medicare has now been taking care of many Americans for five decades, there has been a recent push to make the program available not only for the retired and disabled, but for everyone. In other words, some Americans want the U.S. to adopt a universal health care option, which countries like Canada and Austria have implemented. Opponents of this idea worry that universal health care would give the federal government too much control and bloat, and would also potentially redistribute income in ways that seem unfair to the middle class who already pays a good deal in taxes each year.

So the debate rages on. Right now the current administration is having trouble coming up with a viable solution to replace the Affordable Health Care Act, thought they are still trying. And while Americans certainly have different views on this issue, just about every one of them simply wants health coverage they can afford and that will be effective when the time comes. After all, even those living a healthy lifestyle can undergo a tragic event which can end up costing thousands of dollars of medical expenses. No one wants to go through something like this, but the idea of health insurance is to be there in case something like this does happen.

Right now Medicare is still a good option for a certain section of the U.S. population. For everyone else, they can still buy health insurance through private companies and with the help of their employer, but costs have been on the rise in recent years. The future of U.S. health coverage remains uncertain, but people will continue to fight and argue for what they feel is the best solution for us all.

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