Honors Thesis Spotlight: Could Medicare for All have Changed the Trajectory of COVID-19?

Compared to international countries with dissimilar health care systems, the United States is ranked at the bottom regarding its COVID-19 response. ‘Medicare for All’ (MFA) is a policy proposed to the US Congress to provide universal, comprehensive, and affordable health coverage, has received even further criticism during the pandemic. The researcher’s article seeks to begin the conversation on universal health care’s presumptive effects on health outcomes, particularly during a pandemic response by discussing the United States Medicare.

There has been mass speculation about why the United States’s response to COVID-19 is so low. The United States has the world’s largest novel coronavirus morbidity and mortality incidence rates. Most have concluded the lack of access to healthcare for millions of American citizens to be at the top. COVID-19 has shone a light on the defects within the US healthcare system. This system has left millions of Americans to pay exorbitant medical fees and turn to other countries for access to cheap drugs. Millions have lost their jobs and, thus, more people will continue to lose their healthcare.

The most popular universal healthcare proposal, Medicare, has been pushed by the average American as well as researchers as a tangible solution to “not only providing Americans with affordable comprehensive coverage but also a better outbreak response framework.” If the proposed MFA bill is enacted, there would be an expansion of the government program Medicare to provide comprehensive health coverage to all US citizens with no cost-sharing provisions. According to the researcher, a draft of the bill was presented to both the House and Senate in 2019 and has remained popular despite its stagnant status in the US Congress.

There are currently no papers that dissect each component of the MFA bill along with the related health research to speculate on the bill’s effect on the trajectory of COVID-19. The author, Aliyah N. Hurt, aims their paper to begin the conversation on the potential effects MFA could have on public health, specifically during times of health crises such as that of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each section covers the implications of status quo health policies, the components of MFA, and expected changes to the trajectory of COVID-19 should MFA have been in effect. Part I discusses how MFA attempts to improve access by providing universal comprehensive coverage and eliminating cost-sharing. Cost-sharing, the share of costs covered by your insurance that you pay out of your own pocket, has been used by insurance schemes as a tool to control the utilization of services and, in turn, health spending. The bill also increases accessibility by providing comprehensive coverage which may have encouraged those unaware of their insurance plan’s benefits to seek virus-related health services. Part II examines how MFA seeks to reduce profit motives in the health care system and replace them with public interests by eliminating private insurance schemes, streamlining administrative duties, and allowing government pricing power. Part III considers how the bill attempts to refine quality through maintaining timeliness and enhancing patient-centeredness. According to the author, universal coverage would refine consistency in patient-provider relationships, resulting in better doctor understanding of those who may experience adverse health outcomes due to COVID-19. “Comprehensive coverage and the streamlining of administrative duties are also predicted to improve patient-centered care by allowing doctors more room to collaborate across medical jurisdictions.”

There are also some limitations to the MFA speculation. For one is the fact that this paper focuses purely on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality incidence rates as well as the average American’s financial situation, rather than the health of the entire US economy. “The MFA proposals circulating Congress do not include specifics on how its policies would be funded. It is assumed that taxes would be raised if not on the whole population, the wealthiest citizens, and corporations. This paper does not cover the implications tax hikes could have on the health of citizens, but these effects are important for further research.”

Aliyah Hurt is a graduate of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University. This post was based on Aliyah’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP Blog Intern, Jillian Kaplan.

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