Will Government Controlled Health Insurance Increase Life Expectancy of Americans?

The United States has the lowest life expectancy at birth that is 78.8 years among 11 high-income countries, as per a comprehensive study in the Journal of the American Medical Association carried out in 2018. In a recently held Democratic presidential debate, Sanders, who often claim that “Medicare for All” legislation will reduce healthcare costs for Americans and improve their longevity cited a writing of a team of Yale University researchers posted in the Lancet that said, “Medicare for All will lower health care costs in this country by $450 billion a year and save 68,000 lives of people who otherwise would have dies.” The Lancet is regarded as the most prestigious medical journals in the world.

The estimates of the Lancet authors are based on their assumption of the outcomes of covering the remaining uninsured and assuring continuity of coverage. They also said that their assumption is conservative but such estimates should give break for some good and valid reasons.

The first reason is that access to coverage is not similar to access to care, leave timely access to high-quality care. From the past cases, it is clear that single-payer systems do offer free care at the point of service but these systems are generally understaffed by low-paid medical professionals. As a result, often there are delays in care and have long waiting times. Besides, not all health insurance coverage is equal like people who are on government welfare programs like Medicaid generally face steeper climbs while visiting physicians and medical specialists and receiving positive medical outcomes compared to people enrolled in a standard employer-sponsored health plan.

Secondly, defeating  America’s lower life expectancy mainly depends on overcoming the health insurance coverage gap or lack of care delivery among the uninsured. Behavioral and some other health risks have little to do with insurance coverage or whether health care amount moves through public or private programs. In a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association a team of researchers wrote that “Although poor access or deficiencies in quality could introduce mortality risks among patients with existing behavioral health needs or chronic diseases, these factors would not account for the underlying precipitants (such as suicidality, obesity) which originate outside the clinic.”

The US is known to have the highest obesity rates thereby directly contributing to chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. And not surprisingly around three-quarters of all health spending is concentrated on its treatment or mediating the chronic disease consequences. However, as per a major study in the American Medical Association journal of 2017, researchers calculated that around three-quarters of the variation in life expectancy in the United States was due to behavioral and metabolic risk factors.

According to researchers, America’s midlife mortality from drug overdoses increased by 386.5% between 1999 and 2017. These drug overdoses along with alcohol abuse reduced American progress in life expectancy. However, the relationship between health insurance coverage and mortality is not so clear and the  Institute of Medicine in a 2002 report stated that due to lack of health insurance, 18,000 deaths were cased annually. Contradicting this estimate Richard Kronick of the University of California School of Medicine concluded that it is simply not possible to draw firm inferences from the observational analysis results. He also pointed out that there is little evidence to determine that providing insurance coverage to all adults would largely effect the deaths numbers in the US. This definitely not suggest that policymakers should not diligently work and expand coverage for America’s uninsured.

Health insurance along with swift access to medical professionals and advanced health technology can provide good results and reduced mortality if quality and timely health care are provided. This fact is further testified by America’s brilliant performance in combating cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Besides, America’s responsiveness and well-documented success in combating deadly diseases also favor its superior performance. However, talking about its pitfall it can be said that there are gaps in coverage and quality and American health markets are distorted that reduces efficiency and increases healthcare costs for individuals and families.

Hindrance in market competition at state and federal levels undermines the design of health insurance benefits and productivity in healthcare delivery that also results in increased cost. In addition to this, even the system is burdened by bureaucracy and paperwork generated by huge government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and private third-party payers.

In addition, even regulatory policies and current federal tax prevent portability and an individual’s ownership of health insurance coverage. This further eliminates their ability to take coverage from job to job and maintain continuity of their coverage through diverse stages of their lives. Rather than disrupting the entire public and private health insurance system by bringing Medicare for All legislation, Congress must enact new policies to expand coverage and personal choices and break down barriers to market competition that will itself lower health care costs for millions of Americans.

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