By Contributor Maria Afghanzada

All throughout this year, the Democratic presidential candidates have announced their campaigns, raising money through corporate funds, non-corporate funds, and small donors. 

While the debates have focused on many important topics such as immigration policies and taxes, the most pressing issue seems to be healthcare policy. Each candidate has something to say about their own ideas and their opponents’ plans. 

Take universal healthcare, for instance. Universal healthcare coverage by definition is essentially a healthcare system in which a government offers financial protection to all of its citizens for their health-related issues. This system isn’t something new; all but 43 countries across the globe have a universal healthcare system. Some of the most well-known include Canada, France, and Germany. 

In the United States, we have a special system called Medicare. Through this system, the federal government covers the health insurance of three separate groups: seniors aged sixty-five years or older, younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). 

Medicaid, the sister of Medicare, is a state and federal system that was created to cover the health insurance of low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act (2010) expanded on the current methodology of income-eligibility: Modified Adjusted Gross Income, or MAGI. MAGI is used not only do deem one eligible for Medicaid but also for other reductions through the insurance market. 

Americans who are already covered by Medicaid include not only low-income families, but also qualified pregnant women and individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  

For the millions of Americans who are ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid, private insurance must suffice. But many people are tired of dealing with unwanted bills and high premiums–not to mention the corruption of the private insurance market. 

In 2018 alone, the average family coverage for premiums was $1,168 per month. And because many American families cannot afford a hefty price, they are left uncovered for treatments of chronic illnesses. As of 2017, at least 53 million people are facing this exact problem

So what’s the solution? How do the Democratic candidates propose to fix these problems?

Looking at the polls, the highest-ranking candidates have consistently been Senators Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and former vice-president Joe Biden. Both senators have similar solutions for the rising healthcare crisis— forms of Medicare-for-All—while Joe Biden seeks to fortify the Affordable Care Act that was a signature of the Obama administration.

While the two most progressive candidates both agree that the government should take full responsibility for health-related costs, their plans differ in terms of payment and rollout.

Warren has a very detailed funding plan that was released in a 9,000-word document in November of this year. Her plan would cost about $20.5 trillion dollars, over a total of ten years. She claims she would begin the transition slowly in her first hundred days in office. To pay for the gradual switch, Warren would get the money from taxing the upper-class and millionaires, but not the middle-class. She would also curb government spending, leading to competition among hospitals. 

In her document, the senator lists multiple types of funding for her plan including requiring states to pitch in a total of six million dollars. 

Sanders, on the other hand, hasn’t released an official document of his financial plan for Medicare-for-All. He has not provided specific details on how to finance his plan, though his office has suggested some options: creating a four percent income-based premium paid by employers, eliminating health tax expenditures, and/or establishing a tax on the extremely wealthy.

Both Sanders and Warren want to totally rid Americans of their private insurance options, whereas candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang disagree. These three all agree to some form of government intervention for those who would like a public option; however, they also insist on a private insurance market for those who are comfortable currently. 

These candidates all agree that to immediately wipe out the current private insurance industry would be disastrous for the American economy. Nonetheless, the candidates still expect the public option to ‘out-compete’ the private market.

Many of the candidates have also chosen to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for their government-run healthcare plans, including Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg. 

Overall, almost all of the Democratic candidates believe in some form of a public healthcare option.  The question seems to be how radical to get, and what will American voters support. The candidates all agree that Americans have been suffering too long at the hands of private insurers and hope to ease this tension with their plans. 

It will truly be exciting to see what the American people prioritize while voting.