The cost of health care in the United States is spiraling out of control. Every attempt to control the outrageous cost explosion associated with medical treatment has been unsuccessful. It is time to for America to stand up for what is right and adopt a universal health care system that entitles every U.S. citizen to medical treatment regardless of the ability to pay.
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The privatized system currently in place the United States prevents many American citizens from seeking medical care when they are injured or ill. Low-income and working-class families are unable to afford the cost of health insurance and cannot pay the exorbitant fees of medical practitioners if they have no insurance. No one living in America, the home of the free and the brave, should have to forego medical treatment because of their inability to pay. Self-employed small business owners are especially vulnerable to the demands of the insurance industry because the cost of private insurance is beyond their means. The quality of life of the average American suffers while doctors and insurance carriers profit from their powerlessness. It is a hopeless situation that shows no signs of improvement. Americans must unite and put an end to this violation of the ideals and tenets of democracy. Health care should be publicly funded in the same manner that education is funded. The long-standing belief that medical care should be managed as a capitalistic free-market enterprise must come to an end. It is morally reprehensible that adequate health care is reserved only for those who are financially secure.
Affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. This right was defined by the United Nations in a formal agreement entitled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and signed by the United States along with forty-seven other nations in 1948. In an article published in The Hamilton Spectator, Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer explains the commitment the U.S made when it signed the agreement that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” (qtd. in Dyer, Universal 6). Health care is a right, not a privilege. The United States supported such a concept in 1948 and is still bound by the rules of that agreement. Every American is entitled to medical care even if they are unable to pay for it. Universal health care would be an excellent way to honor that commitment.
Universal health care can be described simply as a system of delivering health care services to a defined population in a fair and consistent manner regardless of an ability to pay (O’Connell, et al. 247). Almost every modern industrialized country throughout the world offers its citizens some type of universal health care. The United States, however, clings to its rather unique and antiquated brand of medical coverage that forces its citizens to seek health care plans from private insurance carriers whose interests lie only in profit margins. Powerful lobbyists in Washington paid by private insurance companies prowl the halls of Congress in their continuous attempt to influence the decisions of lawmakers to support the status quo (Dyer, Universal 6). Americans are left with limited options. The choice of insurance plans along with the amount of coverage each one provides is solely dependent upon the subscriber’s ability to pay.
Where there should be outrage over the blatant inequality that exists in health care coverage there is instead an acquiescent complacency. One of the reasons for this apparent apathy is fear. In a capitalist economy where the concept of supply and demand rules, anything that even hints at socialized medicine is met with scorn. The very idea of socialized medicine strikes fear in the hearts of many Americans. They are blinded by the threat of increased taxes to pay the cost of centralized health care. Coupled with that is the deep-seated opposition, probably politically motivated, to anything that might be considered a socialist platform. They conveniently cast socialism into the banned bucket of failed ideologies along with communism, fascism, Marxism, and totalitarianism. Although there are numerous examples of successful universal health care programs in countries throughout the world, the paralyzing fear persists and prevents otherwise reasonable people from embracing the concept of guaranteed health care for all, no matter how sensible the plan may be.
If more Americans knew that universal health care delivers a substantially higher quality of health care and a better quality of life than our current privately-owned system of care, there would be a higher level of broad-based support. According to Roger Masters, a research professor at Dartmouth college whose findings are published in the International Journal of Health Science, the overall health of Americans has fallen far behind that of many other countries. Masters notes that “despite paying almost twice the cost of health care than other contemporary industrialized nations, Americans have lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and higher obesity than comparable populations” (221-26). Americans suffer from a shorter life span as well. As Gwynne Dyer points out, “the United States is the only developed country where the average lifespan is less than 80” (Why S1). Another example of how far the U.S. has fallen behind is demonstrated in a study cited by Dyer where he reports that a comparison of health care systems in eleven different countries by the American research company The Commonwealth Fund reveals that “the United States came dead last in terms of safety, affordability and efficiency” (Universal 6). These investigations leave little doubt that the quality of U.S. health care falls well below that of other countries
Most Americans seem to want a more equitable system of health care, but the biggest problem is the cost. No one wants to see a burdensome tax increase levied on their income to pay for centralized health care, even if it means a higher quality of care. A study conducted by the Kaiser Foundation found there is sizeable support for universal health care when it is called “Medicare For All,” but when people are told there would have to be an increase in their taxes to pay for the plan, the support wanes considerably. Since no one wants higher taxes it is a lot easier to accept the status quo, no matter how flawed. Another problem is that the exorbitant cost of the current health care system is safely hidden by generous health care benefit packages offered by employers. If every American was employed by a company that offered adequate health care benefits all would be well. But many Americans maintain their own business and many others are employed by businesses that don’t offer health care plans in their benefit package. Even if a health care package is offered, the cost is prohibitive for the average American. Apparently, the basic right to health care outlined in the United Nations human rights agreement lost out to greed.
Opponents of centralized health care in the U.S. seem to enjoy calling attention to any flaws that might exist in the universal health care plans of other countries, citing long wait times, substandard care, and a host of other problems. The news media is quick to pick up on these criticisms and cite them in numerous publications throughout the world. International journalist Alex Newman is one of the most outspoken critics of socialized medicine, but he readily admits that “the American medical system is roundly acknowledged as being broken” and that the cost the cost of health care has escalated to the point that “many middle-class Americans cannot afford health insurance” (10-14). Newman suggests that universal health care plans in all countries should be free of government intervention. However, many experts disagree, and point to the successes of centralized medicine in such countries as Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, and India, to name just a few.
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In an in-depth study on universal health care reform, Washington Post senior editor Phillip Longman notes that people living in countries with centralized health plans are much better off than Americans and have a much better quality of life (29-34). Longman discusses the specific health care plans of several countries, pointing out that Canada was the first North American country to enact universal health care legislation, and most Canadians are not only happy with their coverage but are quite vocal in their support. As an example of Canadian pride, U.S. Senator Cory Booker once remarked at a rally in Washington, D.C., “it is embarrassing to me to have a Canadian stand here in the capital of the United States of America and talk about a system that takes care of their children better than we take care of our children” (qtd. in Panetta). While every county is different in the way medical care is delivered and financed, people in almost every country with centralized care are pleased with their health coverage and want nothing to do with privatized care, especially if it in any way imitates the U.S. health care model.
There are many good reasons why other countries view American health care with disdain. Look at the power the medical institution holds over the U.S. population. Health care options have narrowed to the point that only the wealthy can live comfortably knowing their needs will be met when it comes to catastrophic illness or injury. Private insurance plans often put caps on the amount of money an individual can receive in a lifetime, no matter how serious the health event. Those upper limits are easily reached with the cost of cancer treatment or lengthy rehabilitation in a hospital. There is nothing more disheartening than to discover that benefits have run out and there’s no other alternatives for treatment. It does happen, and it happens more frequently than anyone imagines (Longman 29-34). To make matters worse, the courts tend to be on the side of the greedy, power-hungry insurance companies. In an opinion issued by Chicago’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals insurance companies can place limits on expenses for AIDS and HIV diseases, even if the subscribers are qualified to receive treatment under disability legislation (Milligan 2). Restrictive lifetime limits on benefits are more likely to be found in private insurance plans than in employer-based plans, which is another stab in the back for small business owners. There is little hope that things will change in the foreseeable future unless Americans unite in action.
The power of the medical and insurance industries will continue to strangle U.S. citizens and suffocate free will in the ugly name of greed unless Americans take a stand to reclaim the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Health care is a right, not a privilege. Americans must unite against powerful monopolies and join all the other progressive industrialized nations by adopting a universal health care policy that offers every American access to affordable health care. Everyone has the right to seek medical treatment without worrying about whether they can afford it. The time in now for universal health care.
Dyer, Gwynne. “Universal Health Care and Why America Still Doesn’t Have It.” The Hamilton Spectator, p. S1, 4 July 2018. EBSCOhost Newspaper Source Plus, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=Q4KRKON2018070446737048&site=ehost-live. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
- —. “Universal Healthcare Streets Ahead.” The Timaru Herald, 12 Feb. 2018, p. 6. EBSCOhost Newspaper Source Plus, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=THL18021200061137728558-AQ&site=ehost-live. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
- Masters, Roger. “Cost and Effectiveness in American Health Care: Paying for a New Mercedes and Getting a Clunker.” International Journal of Health Science, Jul. 2009, vol. 2, issue 3, pp. 221-26. EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=44704583&site=ehost-live. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
- Longman, Phillip. “How Big Medicine Can Ruin Medicare for All.” Washington Monthly. Nov-Dec 2017, vol. 49, issue 11/12, pp. 29-34. EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=125796453&site=ehost-live. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
- Milligan, Amanda. “Aids Cap Ruling Reviewed: Little Impact Seen for Group Health Plans, Benefit Experts Say.” Business Insurance, 14 June 1999, p. 2. EBSCO MasterFILE Premier, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=1973018&site=ehost-live. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- Newman, Alex. “Examining Health Care: A Look Around the Globe at Nationalized Systems.” The New American, vol. 24, no. 19, 15 Sep. 2008, pp. 10-14. ProQuest ELibrary. explore-proquest-com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/document/218092820?accountid=44974. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
- O’Connell, Thomas, et al. “What Does Universal Health Coverage Mean?” Lancet, 18 Jan. 2014, vol. 383, no. 9913, pp. 277–79. EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93883336&site=ehost-live. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.
- Panetta, Alexander. “Canadian Doc Helps Bernie Sanders Make Biggest US Push for Universal Healthcare.” The Canadian Press, 13 Sep. 2017, EBSCOhost Newspaper Source Plus, search.ebscohost.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=MYO139377829717&site=ehost-live. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
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