Dr. Abdul El-Sayed On Why Now is the Right Time for Medicare For All

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the United States’ healthcare system under intense scrutiny, highlighting structural issues and problems with individual access.

Healthcare reform has long been a lightning rod for political debate in American politics. While the topic frequently inspires genuine disputes, one thing Americans can agree on is that the current health care system isn’t working.

Since the Affordable Care Act passage more than ten years ago, Democrats have been fighting over the move to universal health care. President Joe Biden and others have been pushing to expand the ACA, while more progressive Democrats have embraced single-payer policies. But many Americans still have questions about how realistic universal healthcare is politically and practically.

Listen: What Medicare for All means for you.

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET


Abdul El-Sayed is a public health doctor and former candidate for governor here in Michigan. He recently co-authored a new book with Dr. Micah Johnson, “Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide.” El-Sayed says private health insurance companies, who stand to benefit from the status quo, have historically intervened in political campaigns for single-payer health care. He adds that most health insurance plans available on the market are confusing and often not invested in providing comprehensive coverage. “The ‘choice’ that we have is a choice about insurance plans that is incredibly opaque and murky… You look at a system where everyone has the same insurance… it is invested in allowing you access to the care you need when you need it,” says El-Sayed on the benefits of a Medicare for All approach. According to El-Sayed, America is spending far too much money on healthcare and getting a low return on investment. He says there needs to be more of an emphasis on an early investment in prevention and health rather than sickness and care. “If you intervene early, you don’t have to intervene late,” says El-Sayed on smarter government spending, focused on health outcomes.

Regarding the Biden administration’s adoption of health care reform rather than an overhaul, El-Sayed says it’s crucial to continue to push for progress. “I think we can work hard to achieve President Biden’s goals of getting a truly public option… while also recognizing that’s not the final answer. Our job is to kick that field goal then come out on the next drive and score that touchdown,” says El-Sayed on progressives’ commitment to Medicare for All.

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