Medicare for All: Assessing the Potential for Universal Healthcare in the United States

Health & Gender Policy Brief #80 | By: Inijah Quadri | July 5, 2023
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The healthcare system in the United States has long been a topic of debate. Despite significant advances in medicine and technology, access to high-quality healthcare remains out of reach for many Americans, largely due to affordability issues. The current system relies heavily on private insurance, often provided through employers, creating disparities in access and coverage.

A proposed solution gaining traction is “Medicare for All“, a single-payer healthcare plan aimed at providing comprehensive healthcare coverage to every American, irrespective of employment status or income. This approach is based on the belief that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege tied to economic status. While proponents argue that it would ensure universal coverage and potentially reduce total healthcare costs, critics express concerns over issues such as funding, potential impacts on healthcare quality, and the role of the private sector. 

In my opinion, I share the belief with many others that healthcare is a right for all people. This belief stems from the understanding that the availability and quality of healthcare can significantly impact one’s quality of life, longevity, and overall well-being. Therefore, it is a critical resource that should be accessible to all, not only those who can afford it.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, quite a number of Americans support the idea of a national health plan or Medicare for All, indicating growing public interest in exploring more equitable healthcare solutions.


The implementation of Medicare for All would constitute a significant shift in the US healthcare landscape, transitioning from a multi-payer to a single-payer system. It would eliminate the need for private health insurance, as the federal government would be the sole payer for all medical services.

Typically, the divide between proponents and critics of Medicare for All seems to align somewhat along political and wealth lines, although there are exceptions. Generally, more progressive and left-leaning individuals and those with fewer economic resources tend to support the idea. Conversely, conservatives and those with more substantial economic resources, including many in the healthcare industry, often express reservations.

Proponents argue that the adoption of Medicare for All could lead to a more equitable system with improved health outcomes. They cite examples of other developed nations that have successfully implemented universal healthcare systems, leading to better health outcomes at lower per-capita costs.

Critics, however, raise concerns about the financial feasibility of such a plan, citing the potential for increased tax burdens and concerns about government control over healthcare decisions. They also highlight potential impacts on innovation and quality of care, as well as the significant disruption to the current healthcare industry that a shift to Medicare for All could entail.

Key examples of healthcare systems that could inform the Medicare for All debate include:

a. Canada’s Single-Payer System: Canada’s healthcare system is publicly funded and mostly free at the point of use, offering a potential model for a U.S. Medicare for All system. However, critics note that Canadians often face long wait times for certain procedures and treatments.

b. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): The ACA expanded access to health insurance for millions of Americans and implemented important consumer protections. However, it did not achieve universal coverage, and affordability remains an issue for many.

Given the compelling need to address healthcare disparities and access in the U.S., I am persuaded that a strategic shift toward a Medicare for All system is a course of action that warrants earnest exploration. Yes, such a transition would be monumental and not without challenges – increased tax burdens and the disruption of the current healthcare industry, to name a few. Yet, the potential to extend comprehensive healthcare to every American – regardless of employment status or income – cannot be overlooked or undervalued.

However, moving forward does not mean moving hastily. Thoughtful, meticulous planning and implementation will be essential to mitigate any adverse effects of such a substantial systemic change.

While the task of healthcare reform is complex and intimidating, it is more a time for decisive action than for continued debate. Policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the public need to rally together and push for a transformative resolution. The ultimate goal must remain clear – an equitable, accessible healthcare system for all Americans.

Engagement Resources

  • Physicians for a National Health Program ( PNHP is a non-profit research and education organization of physicians advocating for single-payer national health insurance.
  • Healthcare-NOW ( Healthcare-NOW is an organization working to help achieve a national single-payer healthcare system because access to healthcare is basic to human dignity.
  • The Commonwealth Fund ( The Commonwealth Fund promotes a high-performing healthcare system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency.
  • National Nurses United ( National Nurses United is a large union and professional association of registered nurses in the US. They support Medicare for All.
  • Kaiser Family Foundation ( KFF provides information on health issues, including the analysis of the U.S. healthcare system, Medicare, and health policy proposals.
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