The idea of universal health care in the United States has remained the figurative 800 pound gorilla in the room. In the our history there has never been a time that needs universal health care legislation more than we do currently. Our country needs it and we need it now!
Today we are faced with a challenge unique to the United States. We have been led to believe that our private system is the way to go, but now it is failing. We spend more money, in terms of per capita and in total terms, than any other nation of the planet, but yet we have almost 50 million uninsured.
There is a problem with the healthcare system in the United States. There are an estimated 45-50 million uninsured and even more that have substandard insurance. We are facing rising costs of medical procedures, equipment and prescription drugs and it would be great if we could throw more money at the problem, but we already spend the most per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world. “In 2007, health care spending in the United States reached $2.3 trillion, and was projected to reach $3 trillion in 2011. Health care spending is projected to reach $4.2 trillion by 2016”.
The problem seems to be a problem of mismanagement and lack of bureaucratic efficiency. “In 2005, the United States spent 16 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent by 2016”. The US spends more money on healthcare than any other country but yet it has almost 1/6th of its population without health insurance. Even those without insurance will receive medical care when they need it, but the price of medical care is so outrageous that it often leads to bankruptcy. This will just continue the horrible cycle of poverty that has crippled so many working people in the United States.
The rising costs of maintaining our healthcare system is increasingly burdening employers, hospitals and the people who have the policies. “Premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 6.1 percent in 2007. Small employers saw their premiums, on average, increase 5.5 percent. Firms with less than 24 workers experienced an increase of 6.8 percent”. The employers are burdened and they pass the expenses on to their employers by finding cheaper policies, canceling insurance or simply making the employees pay for the difference. Since 2000 the costs employees pay for their health insurance rose 143%, rising at an estimated four time faster than the wages of these employees.
Workers who have to support families are asked to contribute even more. An average annual premium for a family of four is $12,200, significantly more than the $10,712 made by a fulltime worker earning a minimum wage salary.
The system of healthcare that is seen in the United States can be described as inefficient, unresponsive and difficult for average people to manage. The current system is a confederation of various Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) who control prices and quality of care and manipulate legislation to prevent state run healthcare. HMOs are the service providers of a healthcare plan, they coordinate through regional alliances between clinics, specialists, doctors and hospitals, to get you care. The biggest flaws concerning the practice of HMOs is that they restrict where one can get their care to facilities that are incorporated within the regional network. This makes it so if one wants to see a specialist, or have the freedom to choose between a wide range of doctors they cannot.
There is a lot of news regarding the quality of care received by HMOs, most if it regards them as not fulfilling their quality of care standards. However, studies have shown that patients tend to prefer the care received from an HMO when compared to a fee-for-service or uninsured experience. HMOs operated within the system to provide the best service that they can for the least amount of money. They negotiate, often times with hardball tactics, to lower prices so that they can net a larger profit. A plan for universal healthcare would either eliminate the need for HMOs or it would drastically reduce their influence, profit margins while forcing a number of them out of business.
The US single-payer system known as Medicare is often criticized for not utilizing its strength more properly. I like to think of a single-payer system as being similar to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart negotiates with its vendors to provide their supplies for a much lower rate then they would to other companies. This is due to the fact that Wal-Mart is the largest company in the United States and is capable of selling massive amounts of merchandise. Wal-Mart has a philosophy that if they are not getting a reasonable price then they are not going to sell that product, which will hurt that company a lot more than it will hurt Wal-Mart.
The US single-payer system increases competition amongst the companiesIf the U.S. or Minnesota (for example) were to operate on a single-payer system they would receive the best rates and high quality products. If pharmaceutical companies refused to negotiate or lower prices then the single-payer system could find other sources, such as Canada, to find the necessary prescriptions and supplies.
Since the days of FDR universal health care has been one of the programs that we need the most, but yet it always seems to fail. In the year 2008 the United States is the only developed nation to not offer universal health care. China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Serbia, Russia and many other countries offer health coverage for all of their citizens. Why is the world’s leading democracy refusing to provide health care for all of its citizens? (Links)