My Patients Deserve Medicare for All

When I signed my letter of intent to medical school, I signed up to work with patients, not insurance companies. I wanted to be part of a team of nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and respiratory therapists — working together to make sick people feel better.

I soon learned that medicine and health care are two different things.

Medicine is diagnosing and treating people. Health care is the bureaucracy that prevents physicians, nurses, and all other providers from practicing medicine to the best of their abilities.

I’d heard that doctors everywhere were overwhelmed by paperwork and dealing with insurance companies, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was. I still don’t understand it — and I know it’s about to hit me like a ton of bricks.

I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And neither should anyone else trying to heal people.

I should be able to work with my patients to decide what’s best for them, not argue with the insurance company about why my patient needs a heart procedure. I should be able to give my patients life-saving drugs without having to worry about whether they can afford it.

I should be able to practice the medicine I’m being taught without having to succumb to a broken system. This is why we need Medicare for All.

Sure, it will cost money, but we can afford it. Studies suggest it would be cheaper than the current for-profit model.

And yes, Medicare for All would raise taxes, but it would eliminate the need to pay for insurance. The total average costs to most families would go down — and many could even see higher paychecks, since employer health costs would drop.

It will lower the costs we all pay for health care, while covering everyone. It will cut out the middleman so we can negotiate drug prices ourselves, decreasing Big Pharma’s monopoly.

Almost no one likes their insurance. No one likes paying copays, deductibles, and premiums. Medicare for All would eliminate all of these payments for everyone and increase the quality of care in the United States.

There’s this fear that Medicare for All will allow the government to control who gets care, but a more sinister version of this already happens with for-profit insurance corporations. Doctors already need to get permission from insurance companies to cover necessary procedures or medication.

Medical schools emphasize treating the person, not the disease. Yet insurance companies routinely deny care to patients they’ve never met. That’s just bad medicine. Medicare for All would return the power to choose to patients and physicians.

For-profit health care just doesn’t work. When you get sick, you can’t negotiate how much you pay — that’s why we buy insurance to negotiate for us. But insurance negotiates with hospitals to lower the cost for themselves, not for you.

They have no interest or incentive to pay for your care. You already pay their premiums every month, so if there’s any way for them to avoid paying for your care, they’re going to take it.

It’s time to kick insurance out of my doctor’s office. Physicians and other healthcare workers are being overburdened with unnecessary paperwork. Patients are either being denied care outright or forced to pay outrageous prices, or both.

What good is a country that can’t protect its own people? We need health care system designed to care for people, not profits — and Medicare for All is the best way we can do that. My patients deserve a health care system that puts them first.

Michael Walls is a second year medical student at Touro University California and Vice President for Programming Development with the American Medical Student Association.