While many believe that basic healthcare should be provided to the entire population, no matter their ability to pay, it is not the most viable option in our capitalistic economy. Healthcare is a commodity that is bought by millions of people and sold by hospitals and clinics around the country to those they believe can pay them back. Most hospitals don’t get to choose which patients to see because they can’t turn patients away based on their ability to pay. This is why we see physicians band together to open their own private practices. This way, those physicians can refuse federal insurance and only accept private insurance, ensuring that their costs are covered by the payments made to them by the private insurance companies (federal insurance agencies like Medicare and Medicaid only pay a fraction of what it costs the physician to do the procedure, causing the physicians to lose money). Socialized medicine, under a single-payer system where the federal government is the only insurer, is not sustainable, financially or economically.
Currently, there are not enough people going into medical professions to sustain the entire population of the United States. We’re barely able to keep up with the current demand of healthcare services with our nursing and physician shortage, let alone the millions of more Americans that would be insured if we changed to offering socialized medicine under a single-payer system.
If the federal government were to decide how much to reimburse hospitals and clinics for checkups and procedures across the board, students would flock to other, more lucrative degrees, for the federal reimbursement rates would be less than it would cost the physician to perform the procedure in the first place (this is assuming that the reimbursement rates would stay the same as they are today). This decreases the amount of revenue that is generated per procedure, and thus negatively affects physicians’ salaries. Physicians coming out of medical school who are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt expect a high-paying job to pay off that debt. If the average annual salaries of physicians decrease due to lowered federal reimbursement rates (which, hypothetically, would be the only insurer in the marketplace), they are not going to want to work in that field. It would not be cost effective to go 200,000 dollars in debt for a profession that would only pay a fraction of the amount that it used to pay.
If you have ever been able to go to the doctor for a physical, eye exam, or to get tested for strep throat, you probably took for granted how easy it was to get an appointment, or how easy it was to access quality health care that would give you fairly accurate results. This is not the case in a lot of other countries. In some places the country’s economy has yet to develop enough to attract physicians to their area of the world. This causes a massive deficit in physicians where the physicians will become overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients they would be responsible for, due to the ridiculously low physician-to-patient ratio (in some areas there are 5 physicians to every 100,000 people). In the United States, we feel privileged to be able to access quality healthcare in a timely manner. Privileged. Privileged because we have greater access to affordable healthcare that includes preventive care, such as a physical, as well as many other aspects of care, not because we deserve it, but because we have access to it and can afford it.
Economically speaking, healthcare is a service provided to a population or community for acceptable reimbursement rates (Ben Shapiro is best known for making this argument). This service, mind you, should only be available to those who can pay for it. If one cannot pay for an x-ray, then they should not go in to get one and keep deferring their payments on the hospital bill for said x-ray. Think of it this way: if you want to have your front yard landscaped, would you hire a company to come do it, and then tell them to send you the bill, knowing you’ll never pay off the landscaping job? No, because I assume that you’re a responsible person who wants to “become responsibly engaged in the world,” which does not include defrauding landscaping companies.
Socialized medicine under a single-payer system where the federal government is the only insurer is never going to be a viable option for the American people. Even if it would work economically speaking, there are way too many Republicans in Congress who think the federal government should be smaller, and not given more power over our healthcare system than it already has. The debate over how our healthcare system should be reformed will go on as long as there is still breath left in the people. I personally believe that the most effective reform will come in the form of a bipartisan bill to change our healthcare system. With both parties currently being ruled by the rhetoric of the fringe on both sides, this kind of reform is far off into our future. But, it is never too early to start a movement for bipartisan reform.