Growing Support for Universal Health Care
The health care delivery system in America has long been viewed as in need of reform or replacement, especially by citizens who are impacted most by the inefficiency and expense they face when they need anything beyond the basics. The US has the best-trained medical professionals and the most modern and well-equipped medical infrastructure in the world, and Americans want to change a system that shortchanges or denies health care to certain groups. Universal health care, which is currently offered in most other large, industrialized nations, appears to offer a solution to the 47 million uninsured and millions more with inadequate coverage in the US.
What is Universal Health Care
More Americans are favoring a tax-payer funded government administered health care delivery system to replace the privately owned and administered system we now use. Universal health care is a form of health coverage which is provided by a government so that all of its citizens have access to health services. Canada, Western Europe, parts of South America, and Russia have programs described as universal health care.
The Cost of Universal Health Care
Providing health services for an entire nation requires massive funding that other governments acquire by taxation and/or by premiums for some form of compulsory health insurance required of all citizens. Today in the US, approximately 25% of its citizens including the elderly, children, the poor, and the armed forces are receiving funded health services. With its present health care delivery system under significant strain, it appears that a breaking point for the US health system is not far off. With single-payer insurance, the Government Accounting Office estimates that the amount of savings would easily cover the 47 million uninsured right now. Naysayers counter with the claim that the US government is not any better suited to administer the health needs of this country than the private sector. Just look at the IRS and tax laws to get a taste of how smoothly the administration of health services would be handled. Cost containment is the battle cry of those who oppose universal health care. Their goal is to minimize health care abuses by educating and redirecting those who seek the convenience of the Emergency Room to receive treatment for the common cold.
The Impact of Universal Health Care
With universal health care, you will get to see any doctor you choose. "No you don't." say opponents, who feel our choices will be limited, as will our access to different treatment options. "Doctors will make the same amount of money, or more." say the proponents. With universal health care, doctors will be salaried. Incentive will be stifled. Med schools enrollment will drop, according to the negative spin. Private health insurance will be a thing of the past and Blue Cross, Aetna, and all others will disappear. HMOs, PPOs, will be a vague memories. Doctors will only have to deal with one insurance claim form and bill only one payer. Both sides clearly have some valid points.
Health Insurance for Small Businesses
Much of the debate about universal health care criticizes putting the administration of health care into the hands of a government which is notorious for waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. In one of its possible configurations, universal health care will force the self-employed and small businesses to pay for health care they cannot afford. Seeking a better solution, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a lobbying group for small businesses, is looking at ways to cut costs to make health insurance, especially for small businesses, more affordable. The practical features of this plan are to have employees keep their insurance from job to job, and to allow policy pooling to spread the cost of claims. Partisanship has plagued any progress in mending health care troubles. Perhaps by selecting features that work from the opposing schools, a compromise can be drawn making health care available to 65% more of our uninsured citizens, the self-employed and employees of small businesses. Accomplishing this would go a long way to healing the health care ills of the nation.
Election 2008 Presidential Candidate's Stands on Health Care Issues
- Senator Hillary Clinton (D - NY)
Senator Clinton suggests that we have a mandatory health insurance that is subsidized by businesses and the government. It would be paid for by rolling back tax cuts for upper classes and expected savings over the system currently in effect.
- Senator Barak Obama (D - ILL)
Senator Obama proposes mandatory health insurance for all children, paid for by denying agreed-upon tax cuts for upper classes. Require all large businesses supply health insurance, exempt small businesses. Emphasizes driving down costs.
- Senator John McCain (R - AZ)
Senator McCain proposes to limit medical expenditures. Develop portable health insurance. Pay physicians according to the quality of their work.
Preparing for Universal Health Care
Proactive Americans will develop plans to adapt to a new structure for health care delivery. The worst case scenario may be that ultimately no change occurs and we are faced with enduring more of the same shortcomings and inadequacies as before. The uninsured in this country will need to look for ways to stay healthy and learn as much about preventative medicine as they can. According to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), outpatient services such as emergency room visits represented the largest increase in health care expense. This has lead to increased insurance premiums and a corresponding increase in the number of uninsured. By educating the public about preventative medicine and home remedies for common illnesses, a huge expense can be removed from outpatient care. Consider the savings that could be realized if everyone with non-emergency conditions (over half of all ER visits) used home remedies or visited their family doctor instead of the Emergency Room for treatment. The average expense for an Emergency Room visit is nearly $850 while a visit to a primary care physician (family doctor) is about $100. No matter what happens in the debate about universal health care, it will be up to the individual to adapt to business as usual or to a health care system managed by the US government. Either way, the real solution lies with the individual.