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The Single-Payer Problem that Doesn’t Exist

In her recent piece, “The Single-Payer Problem Liberals Don’t Want to Talk About,” Monica Potts incorrectly concludes that the bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, named Medicare-for-All, will lead to the elimination of jobs for low-income women. But this is a phantom “concern” conjured up solely to make the very people who will benefit most afraid – afraid of losing their jobs, of what little stability they have, and of that thing that is most scary – change.

It’s not hard to find data that show shifting to a single-payer system would actually create jobs while leading to a boom in our economy. As far back as 2009, it was estimated that such a stimulus would create an estimated 2.6 million additional jobs. As Dan Demoro noted: “If we were to expand our present Medicare system to cover all Americans, the economic stimulus alone would create an immense engine that would help drive our national economy for decades to come.”

And, so long as we’re on the subject of employment, let’s think about this: In 2012, the UK’s own single-payer system, the NHS, was listed as the fifth biggest employer in the world, and currently, employs over 1.5 million people. To put that in perspective, the UK has a population of roughly 65 million, where we in the U.S. stand at about 323.1 million. Imagine what we could do here in the U.S. with a similar healthcare system.

Related: Editorial: We Need Medicare for All

I appreciate Ms. Pott’s personal story about her mother’s need to find a job in a hospital and how that impacted her and so many other people’s stories. As a daughter whose impoverished mother lost her life to cancer that was diagnosed far too late, I can tell you how meaningful it is to watch our parents suffer and find solace. But I and so many others have lost our mothers to this cruel system that prices people out of healthcare. A recent study of the Medicaid system here in Oregon looked at populations that were granted the opportunity to participate in the state’s Medicaid system and those that weren’t. Unsurprisingly, they found that those who were guaranteed access to healthcare saw significant improvement in not only their healthcare outcomes, but in the patient’s financial life and overall well-being.

Make no mistake – a shift in this landscape would mean change. But it would mean life. A life not spent worrying about that pain in your abdomen, that abscessed tooth that could kill you, or the maternity or neonatal care that could bankrupt you and your loved ones. As an administrative professional and woman myself, I certainly appreciate the points she makes about the importance of valuing women in administrative positions in the health industry, but this article is – when it comes down to it – creating a problem out of thin air. Ms. Potts cites no reference or figure for this imagined plight. The article rests on the simple fact that there are women who are employed in the current healthcare industry, which will see private insurance slowly phased out to expand the current Medicare system and lay down the infrastructure – which includes job expansions – in every state. In this new system, there will always be a need for medical transcriptionists, secretaries, inventory specialists, and administrative professionals. These jobs are essential to healthcare and will always be necessary.

We now have an opportunity to shift the jobs to a different employer, a move that will bring with it guaranteed maternity care, neonatal care, cancer screening, vaccinations, and routine care that will show we value women’s lives. Wholly.

I have to take a moment now to look at the source of this idea that the jobs of low-income women are threatened (note: they’re not). It is no surprise that this speculation would be advanced by a fellow at the New America Network Advisory Council, a think tank funded in no small part by tech elites that include Google, Microsoft, and Facebook among their numbers. This same think tank was subject to a controversy recently when the New York Times covered the sacking of a New American scholar, Barry Lynn, for critiquing Google on the company’s website. This critique allegedly angered the tech giant’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, and allegedly led to the termination of Mr. Lynn’s employment. The Google-New America controversy also led to the poignant reminder that nonprofits should avoid corporate funding. Mind you, this is the same Google whose parent company, Alphabet, Inc., is steadily expanding its portfolio into healthcare. Is it truly surprising that a voice affiliated with a think tank would be critical of a venture that could potentially cost its donors untold millions of dollars?

This sidenote is simply a reminder to all readers – whenever we read something, we must always analyze the piece critically. We must always think: cui bono? Who benefits from this analysis? Does it shed light, or is it casting imagined shadows or otherwise making people afraid, scared, or angry that they’re being left behind, when, in fact, they’re not?

Yes, the Medicare-for-All bill will radically and fundamentally change the healthcare industry. The bill would make healthcare more cost-effective while simultaneously expanding care and coverage throughout the United States. And yes, it will get rid of the “middle man,” and it likely will have growing pains – as all new systems do. But administrative jobs will not “go away” nor will they disappear. With Medicare-for-All, for instance, it is doubtful that there would be as many insurance claims adjusters denying your healthcare claims. Doctors won’t spend countless hours of every week arguing with an insurance representative about why their patient needs the medicine or the procedure they prescribed. That’s the waste we’re talking about – the waste that kills people and has led to an exodus of health professionals from the field.

But we’re talking about giving insurance and healthcare to the nearly 30 million people in this country who don’t have meaningful access to healthcare.

We can only accomplish the dreams that we imagine are possible. If we constantly stood paralyzed as Ms. Potts would have us do – afraid of reaching for a world where every woman and child can get the treatment they need to live – then we will never attain the healthcare that all other first world countries have managed to attain – a healthcare that truly values and respects women. A healthcare for all.

Written by R. R. Wolfgang

R. R. Wolfgang

Mother. Wife. Sister. Survivor. She grew up poor and went to the University of Cambridge to study Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic languages, literature, paleography, and history. Now, she's interested in social justice and seeing if history could kindly stop repeating itself.

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