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Let’s Talk about a Real Healthcare System (And, No, I Don't Mean "Obamacare")

Let’s talk about healthcare. I don’t mean debating the Affordable Care Act. I mean healthcare, as in: If everyone needs healthcare, guarantee that everybody gets it.

I know, when it comes to healthcare, it’s easy to get into a debate for or against Obamacare. But we nurses see the world through a different lens: our patients.

Good healthcare is a fundamental resource that keeps America’s big engine running. Every day, as we do our best to care for our patients, nurses see people with chronic disease like asthma or diabetes who can’t afford insurance costs or medication. Maybe they’re absent from work, tired, and distracted from trying to manage their health on a shoestring. They run the risk of hospitalization. They struggle for a distant unreachable shore hoping something will help. They can’t get ahead because their health keeps dragging them down. 

And yet the answer isn’t on the horizon, the answer is in our pockets, in our hands. It’s our taxes. We pay them and we ought to benefit from them.

There’s one thing that every American does. Every working American (ok, except the Wall Street crowd) pays taxes. But what do we pay taxes for? Increasingly, we wonder where our money is going, how our money is serving our communities, and how our tax money is helping us and our families.

There are dozens of arguments about what our tax dollars should be doing. But what if we spent a portion of our tax dollars on the one thing that would position every American, young and old, on the road to success? That one thing is good health. You need it to go to school, get to your job, excel at what you do, and dream big dreams that will make our country great again.

We must do better and nurses have a solution. The United States ranks first in costs but 37th in health outcomes in the world. We do even worse for infant morality and life expectancy.

So nurses are proposing another way. We’re saying that our taxes should pay for our healthcare. It works for seniors, it works for Congressmembers, and it will work for all of us.

This week, we launched an online campaign, asking voters to demand this from Congress. 

We’re talking about something that already exists for some, right here in the United States of America, and what can easily exist for everyone. A tax-funded national healthcare system would negotiate prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and services, specialists and more, effectively lowering the cost of delivering care. Taxpayers don’t have to worry about paying for someone else’s care. You’ll be paying for your own care, your family’s care, without raising taxes at all.

Since the tax subsidies to buy insurance under the ACA mostly move money around to pay for private insurance for some that don’t have it, and which allows the insurers to take 20 cents off the dollar, it would be more efficient to uses taxes to pay for everybody’s healthcare directly, eliminating the middleman and the shell game.

We are reaching inside the box to think outside the box; we are charting a third way. It's time to rediscover healthcare as care rather than insurance for the first time in a long time, and let the taxes we already pay deliver what every American needs.

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Deborah Burger

Deborah Burger

Deborah Burger is a registered nurse and a co-president of National Nurses United.

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