Universal Health Care system
Over forty-five million Americans live in fear, each day, of the possibility that any kind of hospitalizing injury or illness could potentially put them so far in to debt that they would be forced to declare bankruptcy. This number is not shrinking, but rather steadily growing. Our government has received much criticism and pressure from this growing problem and they realize something must be done, but what? What could the government do to magically insure over forty five million Americans? There is an answer, a specialized form of Universal Health Care. I believe our country could benefit greatly from a universal health care program, if given the proper time to develop a comprehensive plan. However, if a weak plan is implemented too early, a new problem could develop that is far more a problem than the one we face now.
There is no question that our current health care system is at best, inefficient. Fundamental change is needed but there are clashing opinions on how drastic the change should and can be. From a political standpoint, the left side believes that health care is a fundamental right and should be guaranteed to every American; while the right side feels that it is difficult enough to pay their current health care plan premiums to try and create a plan to compensate for everyone. Individuals’ views on this newly heated topic ranges widely and it is an issue that will be heavily discussed and be a determining factor on who will be elected to be our next president.
One problem with implementing a Universal Health Care system is the issue of fairness of payment from each individual. For instance, there is a man who works out regularly, eats healthy, doesn’t drink or smoke and a man who smokes, drinks and is obese; are they expected to pay or be taxed the same for the same care? What about the difference in gender? Is a man more susceptible to injury or disease than a woman of the same age? What is going to be, if there will be, the difference between an infant and an eighty-five year old man that is bed ridden and requires a substantial amount of extra care? If there is no difference in payment regardless of lifestyle, gender or age, there will be much debate of who has the lowest reason and why. If there were these differences, a board would need to be created to determine the financial responsibility difference between each individual. However, if there are no differences in payment between individuals, how is this fair to those who make a person who lives a healthy life style. There are so many questions that surround this idea and I think they are all questions that need to be answered before we think about constituting a plan.
Imagine if every doctor knew they were getting paid the same amount for their practices regardless of prestige, experience or effectiveness. Mediocrity does not promote progress; and the reason the U.S. is a leader in health-care advancements is the fact that the doctor who can perform the best and fastest, will end up with the most money. For decades doctors have realized that if they find a new and improved way to deal with a common problem, they will be the most successful, thus driving accelerated progress. In countries where there is a universal health care program, doctors are not coming up with any new ideas but rather using old to modern ways. It’s unfortunate that progress is powered by greed, but it is and it has lead to countless improvements in medicine and practices. Should we pull this incentive to progress, many people would be very basic and sometimes receive ineffective treatments.
On the contrary, a well-conceived plan could neutralize this idea of doctors giving up on medical advancements. With everyone covered by the basic coverage and generic doctors provided by the universal health care program, specialized doctors could then solely focus their efforts on major furtherance in their field. Then again this may not sound enticing to the specialized doctors, unless they were promised a certain amount of money regardless of progress. Because in all reality they would be working for something that no one knows really exists.
A major concern with actualizing a universal health care plan would be the transition from the system we have now to the program that, as of right now, doesn’t exist. It is much easier said than done to transition from a system, which has billions of dollars and countless jobs invested, to a completely untried and new system. A countless number of jobs would be lost, records would have to be transferred, and time would be needed to make such a dramatic change
If we were to shut down the health insurance companies now, thousands would be out of jobs, ranging from the CEOs of each company down to the security guards that patrol their buildings. Where would those people turn to? Especially the sales representatives; sure many would find sales jobs with other big companies, but there would still be thousands out of jobs with no experience in other fields. Some speculate that the new universal health care would need a number of employees which would not cause that great of a difference in the number of jobs lost, but truthfully there simply would clearly be more jobs destroyed than created. Would it be worth it to gain cheaper health insurance at the cost of your job? Truth is all employees of a health insurance company are insured already, they would be adamantly opposed to this redesign.
Jobs lost would not be the only concern in this transition, thousands upon thousands of health records would have to be transferred to and registered in the universal health insurance’s database. Not only would this take ample time, it would also cause a discrepancy in how fair it is for a family that has no health records to have to go in and get some form of documentation on their health record. To get some documentation would cost more than one would think due to the fact that there are fifteen million that would need this done.
Accessibility to healthcare in the United States has been a formidable foe for as long as I can remember. The increase in medical cost over the last eight years is so pervasive that it underlies two very different crises. First is the plight of Medicaid, which is a program that is under both political and fiscal attack. Second is the catastrophe also known as employer based insurance. Which has caused the number of uninsured to grow at an extrodinary rate.
While most advanced countries have dealt with the defects of private health insurance in a straight forward fashion, by making health insurance a government service. The United States has in effect done the same thing for its seniors and its low-income families. Medicaid is a means tested program that provides insurance to most of the poor and near poor. This leaves those not covered by the government programs, to get insurance through their employers or to purchase private insurance.
If you think that all poor Americans can get health coverage through Medicaid, guess again. Except for a few states with federal waivers, adults must meet income, asset and various categorical requirements. If you are not a parent of dependent children, disabled or elderly, you do not qualify for Medicaid coverage, no matter how poor you are. As a result, more than 50% of all low income uninsured persons are adults who do not fit in one of the eligibility categories.
A recent study estimates that 7 million Californians are uninsured, with millions more under-insured. Those without a way to pay for care have limited access to medical resources, leaving their untreated conditions to become highly volatile, which leads to my next statistic. “Lack of insurance is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. This leaves me with the following questions Can Medicaid be redesigned to cover non-categorical poor adults? What lessons can be learned from states’ efforts to cover the uninsured through Medicaid expansions? What are the challenges they have faced and are likely to face in the current economic climate? Can private insurance fill the void? I can answer all of these questions with the implementation of one phrase Single Payer Health Insurance.
Single payer financed health care is a cost-effective method for financing and administering a universal health system. Countries, such as Canada have already implored universal or single payer health care systems with much success. With a single payer system, states like California could establish a health insurance plan that covers all residents. The plan would replace all other health insurance plans, private or public. This plan would be financed by a State Health Agency with local county branches. The financing for this program would come from a created state health taxes and federal monies that are already given to programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid and in California’s case Medi-Cal. Consolidation of all previously stated would save the state billions of dollars and better yet everyone has a doctor and gets preventative care, this also would save billions of dollars which could in turn be used toward our resounding state deficit. Quality of care would be improved through equitable distribution of resources, choice of physician, primary and preventive care, risk adjusted budgets that pay the true costs of care, statewide data collection and analysis, public access to non-confidential data, linkage of health research and innovation to health care needs, safe staffing ratios, return of medical decision making to medical providers and patients, use of evidence-based medical practices and monitoring of outcomes, funded consumer advocates and monitoring of consumer and provider satisfaction. With single payer, everyone would be covered, no matter if you have pre-existing conditions. Everyone gets services, even the patient decides who their doctor is and which hospital they want to go to. As long as the insurance industry holds on to the reins and continues to profit on the backs of those who are ill, and those trying to stay well, health care crisis will never be resolved.
The benefits of universal health care have been debated for many decades. Other industrialized nations are very successful with this type of health care, but the United States government finds it risky and too difficult to handle. Although the expenses for universal health care may have to be paid with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas controlled by the government universal health care is necessary for many reasons, including the option of developing a centralized national database which makes diagnosis and treatment easier for doctors. Universal health care is a system that allows the government to give coverage to the entire population. It is extended to all residents without financial barriers. Most countries that implement this type of health care are aiming to extend health care coverage to as many citizens as possible. Unlike the United States, most wealthy, industrialized countries, have a universal health care system, with the most successful being Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (Watkin 6). Universal health care allows patients to find health care even when they cannot afford it. Private insurance is very rare in countries with universal coverage, and is mostly used for services not always covered by the government, like cosmetic surgery, and special comforts like private rooms. The cost for prescriptions in these countries are usually non-existent or reduced, which allows for most patients to get the necessary medication. Universal health care allows for each citizen to get the coverage they need, which in many countries, is considered a right, not a privilege.
Each country that has a system of universal health care gives different benefits to its citizens. The National Health Service, which was established by the United Kingdom in 1948, is considered the “first universal health care system provided by a government” (Watkin, 13). This system is extended to every country in the United Kingdom. In France, 99 percent of the population is covered, and the government “pays for those who do not earn enough to contribute” (Minjares, 1). The health system in Japan has a National Health Insurance and an Employees’ Health Insurance, where “premiums are about 4 percent of a monthly salary; the employer pays half, and the employee half” (Friedman, 206). Most of these nations cover this system through taxation or the single-payer system, which is where the population is covered by only one insurance company. America has tried many times to introduce this type of system to its citizens, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Although resistance from health care providers, insurers, physicians and the anti-tax community is significant, there have been federal and state wide attempts to create a universal health care program in the United States. In 2001, the Maine legislature authorized a study to discover if Maine could implement a single-payer system where it would have “centralized the process of claims and decreased or eliminated costs related to activities such as billing and the adjudication of claims” (Barlett, 172). California has also made several statewide and regional programs, including coverage for the working uninsured, financed by employers and a free or subsidized health coverage for pregnant women, families with children, and the elderly and disabled individuals with the Healthy Families Program. During Clinton’s presidency, the US got the closest to setting up a national health plan it has ever gotten. Hillary Clinton, the first lady, set up a task force to introduce universal health care to America. The Clinton’s Health Security Plan “established a quasi-private system with purchasing cooperatives with an employer mandate” (Quadagno, 188). There was also the introduction of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Medicare for the elderly, and Medicaid for citizens with a low income and limited resources. These attempts have been somewhat successful, but have not been able to extend to a large portion of the population who really needs to coverage. For example, SCHOP has been able to cover low income children and their families, but have often faced problems with funding. Two proposals were passed to Congress in 2007 to a “$35 billion expansion,” but both were vetoed by President George W. Bush (Abramowitz, 1).
As one of the richest countries in the world, it is expected, if not a responsibility, that the US would have this type of coverage to take care of its citizens. There have always been reasons to why the U.S. has not taken the step towards universal healthcare. Insurance companies could end up losing many different patrons, the enduring anti-government sentiment, the complications of this type of health care, and even the racial politics of the South have kept the United States from taking the next step towards universal coverage (Quandagno 12). The inevitable truth is that the United States needs socialized medicine, even if it is hard to come by. Health care costs more per person in the U.S. than in any other nation in the world (“Health Systems” 1). According to the US Census, the percentage of citizens within the United States without any type of health care coverage was 15.3%, or 45.7 million people, in 2007(U.S. Census 9). Most people (about 59.3% in 2007) were covered by a health insurance plan related to their employment (U.S. Census 17). The health care system in America is “a system in which the person you work for, or don’t, determines what you pay for medical services” (Barlett, 2). Individuals that are unemployed, live in poverty, failing to meet the stringent requirements for government coverage can find themselves insurance deprived. Medicare and Medicaid, which both have specific requirements to qualify, do not always meet the needs of the people. It is almost impossible to find health care coverage that is affordable and adequate, even for the middle-class working families.
Universal health care in America is nothing to be afraid of. It is a giant step towards making sure all citizens can be covered adequately. Private insurance companies would face a major hit, but there would still be people who wanted the extra security of a private insurance plan. One of the arguments against universal health care, that citizens have always had a fear of having the government run any part of their lives, is reduced when the benefits are researched. With the benefits that universal health care offers, it’s time for American citizens to realize that the government should be trusted to use the taxes on a health care that helps all of the citizens. With a good, trustworthy, government-controlled health care system, citizens will be able to receive the best medical attention available. Socialized medicine would also allow for a centralized medical database for all physicians in order to treat people as efficiently and effectively as possible. This would not only allow for patients to receive the best treatment that had been studied by doctors over the entire country, but would also lead to a speedy recovery. Oppositionists to universal health care will always find a reason for not having this system, but the evidence overthrows this reasoning.
Universal health care would not only save people money, but also save lives. Half of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills, and three-fourths of those bankrupted had health insurance at the time they got sick or injured (Himmelstein 1). Canada, which has a national health care system, has “better measures of access to health care than Americans, even though they spend much less per capita on health care” (Lasser, 1). Universal health care could change the lives of every US citizen. It would open many different doors for not only patients, but for physicians as well. The system may introduce new taxes and spending cuts, but the benefits, including the option of a centralized national database, outweighs the excuses for not executing a plan for national health.
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