The United States has the highest cost of healthcare compared with any other country in the world. Our life expectancy is also significantly shorter than countries that have national healthcare, such as the United Kingdom and Canada. In addition, our infant mortality rates are higher than 45 other countries. Just recently, a woman in Georgia was charged seven hundred dollars for an emergency room bill after spending seven hours in a waiting room. She had gone into the hospital for a head injury, but after an excessively long amount of time in the waiting room, she left. When she went to dispute it, convinced it was a mistake, she was told, “You get charged before you are seen. Not for being seen. This is hospital protocol.”
Unreasonable hospital charges in the United States go beyond seven hundred dollars, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer in Seattle, a man’s hospital bill totalled $1.1 million for a six week ICU stay after catching the virus. The bill was 181 pages long. These frequent cases of overcharging patients creates an environment where people feel that they must only get the healthcare they need as a very last resort.
The problem with our current medical system is that it is made for profit. One idea to fight this problem is a “single payer” model. This system is non-profit and the costs of healthcare are covered by a single public system, greatly reducing the administrative costs associated with insurance companies. It would give all US residents medical coverage for all necessary services and streamline the administrative processes. These services include reproductive care, mental health care, preventative care, dental care, prescription costs, and more. A single payer system works effectively in many other countries and typically reduces about half the cost of healthcare per capita without a decreasing the quality of care.
In addition to reducing administrative costs, a single payer system would also allow for savings with respect to pharmaceutical costs. The pharmaceutical industry made a revenue of $1.27 trillion in 2020 alone. An example of cost inflation by pharmaceutical companies is the case of the lifesaving medication, insulin, used to treat diabetes. Even though a vial of insulin only costs about $3 to produce, it has a retail price of around $175 to $300. A patient with diabetes typically uses two to three vials a month and at times much more. In Canada, where there is a single payer system, the average cost for a vial of insulin is $35. The reason for this cost reduction in countries that use a single payer system is that they save by buying in large quantities.
Some argue that competition is needed for medical innovation, but the majority of medical research is publicly funded. In the United States, “healthy” competition does not lead to healthy citizens.