Will The United States Ever Abolish Private Health Insurance?

There are two guiding theories about health and medicine. The first is the one we use in the United States: Convince most people to buy into private health insurance, which will pay the lion’s share of the costs in the event of a serious illness. The second is the one we don’t use (but many other developed countries do): Treat health like a human right, and use taxes to pay for medical treatment whenever someone becomes ill. 

You probably already know that Democrats like Bernie Sanders favor the latter system. They prefer a “Medicare for all” system that they say would eventually reduce the costs of medicine, which are consistently rising at an ever-increasing rate.

The problem is even simpler, though. The United States is a capitalist society. Most of us believe in protecting business in general, but especially those smaller businesses or those businesses just starting out. To change such a deeply-ingrained part of our society would require a reversal of Republican policy and a transformation of American belief. 

There are other obvious problems. We allow lobbying in politics. Private interests like big business are allowed to contribute to political groups and campaigns when their beliefs align. This makes those political groups feel indebted to the ones who gave them money (and even if it doesn’t make them feel that way, they still have to do it to keep constituents happy). Gutting our current healthcare system also means demolishing an entire industry — and a powerful one at that. No one could believe that private health insurance providers would simply lie down and take it if the voters decided true universal healthcare was in their best interests.

Sociology Professor Paul Starr at Princeton University said, “We’re talking about changing flows of money on just a huge scale. There’s no precedent in American history that compares to this.”

That’s why you shouldn’t expect private health insurance to be abolished anytime soon. Not unless something transformational happens within our society.